2024 Global Digital Shopping index

Sam Altman: NY Times Lawsuit Not a Priority for OpenAI

New York Times building

OpenAI’s chief executive is reportedly unconcerned about a lawsuit by The New York Times against his company.

The newspaper sued OpenAI and partner Microsoft late last year, accusing the companies of copyright infringement and claiming they used its content without permission to develop their artificial intelligence product ChatGPT.

Speaking Thursday (Jan. 18) at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said resolving the suit is not a priority for the company, which has disputed the newspaper’s allegations.

“We actually don’t need to train on their data,” said Altman, whose comments were reported by CNBC. “I think this is something that people don’t understand. Any one particular training source, it doesn’t move the needle for us that much.”

The company has, however, acknowledged using that data on its blog, as New York Times (NYT) attorney Ian Crosby noted in a statement to PYMNTS earlier this month.

“The blog concedes that OpenAI used The Times’s work, along with the work of many others, to build ChatGPT,” Crosby said. “As The Times’s complaint states, ‘Through Microsoft’s Bing Chat (recently rebranded as ‘Copilot’) and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Defendants seek to free-ride on The Times’s massive investment in its journalism by using it to build substitutive products without permission or payment.’ That’s not fair use by any measure.”

On stage at Davos, Altman echoed some of the claims his company had made earlier this month: that it was surprised by the newspaper’s lawsuit, and that the company had been negotiating with the NYT before news of the suit broke.

He said that OpenAI was prepared to pay the outlet “a lot of money to display their content” in ChatGPT.

If the Times has its way, the company would pay “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works,” as the lawsuit reads.

As PYMNTS wrote earlier this week, the NYT’s lawsuit is the most prominent example of a larger trend as artificial intelligence use becomes more widespread: copyright holders suing AI companies for allegedly using data to train their models without permission.

“I think [the lawsuit is] going to put a shot across the bow of all platforms on how they’ve trained their data, but also on how they flag data that comes out and package data in such a way that that they can compensate the organizations behind the training data,” Shaunt Sarkissian, founder and CEO at AI-ID, told PYMNTS.

“The era of the free ride is over,” he said.