Earlier this week, a number of high-profile authors, including John Grisham and George R. R. Martin of "Game of Thrones" fame, announced they're suing ChatGPT maker OpenAI, claiming its large language models are violating their copyright.
It's yet another sign that OpenAI is in serious legal trouble following several copyright lawsuits, and the number of plaintiffs just keeps on growing.
Grisham in particular, a former attorney who has built an expansive and highly successful career in publishing legal thrillers — often about lawyers taking on powerful entities — might have OpenAI quaking in its boots.
Striking Hollywood writers and actors form the background of the lawsuit, with talks breaking down in July over the use of AI in the industry, among other issues ranging from inadequate pay to unfair revenue-sharing practices.
"It is imperative that we stop this theft in its tracks or we will destroy our incredible literary culture, which feeds many other creative industries in the US," said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger in a statement about the new suit.
In the suit, the authors claim that OpenAI's "LLMs endanger fiction writers’ ability to make a living, in that the LLMs allow anyone to generate — automatically and freely (or very cheaply) — texts that they would otherwise pay writers to create."
These texts could also be "material that is based on, mimics, summarizes, or paraphrases" their writing and that without it, OpenAI "would have no commercial product with which to damage — if not usurp — the market for these professional authors’ works."
In short, generative AI is not only threatening the livelihoods of writers, but companies like AI are directly and unfairly benefiting from their work without offering any meaningful form of compensation.
The complaint also alleges that OpenAI is obfuscating what texts it actually trains its AI models on, and that it has already admitted to using copyrighted materials.
While OpenAI has only responded with a vague statement to various outlets about wanting to respect "the rights of writers and authors," and believing "they should benefit from AI technology," previous arguments made by the company could shed a little more light on how it will eventually address the latest lawsuit.
In a court filing asking a judge to overturn a similar lawsuit filed by comedian Sarah Silverman earlier this year, OpenAI argued that her claims "misconceive the scope of copyright, failing to take into account the limitations and exceptions (including fair use) that properly leave room for innovations like the large language models now at the forefront of artificial intelligence," as quoted by the Associated Press.
Nobody really knows how this latest complaint will play out or if it will ever even make it into the courtroom. Yet, some experts believe there's a chance OpenAI could be found guilty.
"They’ve scraped all this content and put it into their databases without asking permission — that seems like a huge grab of content," Edward Klaris, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, told the New York Times. "I think courts are going to say that copying into the database is an infringement in itself."
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