Prominent Authors Sue OpenAI Over Copyright Infringement

Prominent authors George RR Martin, John Grisham, and Elin Hilderbrand have jointly filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, the creator of the generative AI chatbot known as ChatGPT. They allege copyright infringement and describe it as a “systematic theft on a massive scale” of their literary works.

In their legal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, the authors claim that OpenAI, which gained significant popularity with the launch of ChatGPT, incorporated their book content into its “language models” (LLMs). These language models are instrumental in training AI to generate sophisticated human-like language.

The authors specifically highlight that ChatGPT users have utilized the tool to create prequels and sequels to best-selling books like George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the series that inspired the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones.” Martin has yet to publish the final two novels in this series.

In their legal action, the authors are seeking a court order to prohibit OpenAI from using copyrighted works in their LLMs without “express permission.” They are also seeking damages, potentially up to $150,000 per work.

This is not the first lawsuit of its kind that OpenAI has faced. Earlier this year, comedian Sarah Silverman and authors Christopher Golden and Richard Kadrey also sued OpenAI and Meta (formerly Facebook) for copyright infringement in relation to training GPT-4 and Llama 2.

OpenAI is not the only tech company to have launched chatbots using generative AI. Other tech giants like Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Microsoft also offer similar AI-powered tools.

Tech companies, including OpenAI, argue that their chatbots do not engage in plagiarism but rather draw inspiration from existing works to generate original content.

In August, OpenAI announced that website owners could block their web crawler to prevent their content from being used to train LLMs, a move embraced by various sites, including news publishers like The New York Times.

In a related development, a class-action lawsuit alleging privacy violations by OpenAI was recently dismissed in California.

Meanwhile, Google is expanding the capabilities of its AI chatbot, Bard, by integrating it with other Google services such as Gmail, Maps, and YouTube. This expansion aims to compete with similar AI technologies from companies like OpenAI and Microsoft. Bard will be able to access information from Gmail, provide directions from Google Maps, find YouTube videos, extract flight information from Google Flights, and access text from documents stored in Google Drive. Google has pledged to protect user privacy by ensuring that potentially sensitive information extracted by Bard from Gmail or Drive will not be viewed by human eyes and will not be used for targeted advertising.

This development in AI technology is part of the ongoing competition ignited by OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s efforts to incorporate similar technology into its Bing search engine and Microsoft 365 suite, which includes popular programs like Word, Excel, and Outlook. ChatGPT’s success prompted Google to launch Bard on a large scale and to test its more conversational AI within its search results.

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