Could a NYT lawsuit threaten the future of generative AI?

The New York Times recently updated its terms of service to prohibit AI companies from scraping its articles and images. OpenAI, meanwhile, has allegedly continued to exploit the newspaper’s content igniting reports of a potentially industry-altering lawsuit.

Thred Media
3 min readAug 24, 2023

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The grossly unregulated world of AI could soon be shaken up drastically, if reports are to be believed.

Just weeks after the New York Times made the bold decision to preclude AI companies from scraping its articles and images, OpenAI’s flagship generative AI platform, ChatGPT, is already in the newspaper’s cross-hairs for a potential lawsuit.

NPC claims to have an inside scoop that NYT lawyers are mulling over whether or not to bring the Microsoft-owned company to court, potentially setting up the most high-profile legal tussle since the mainstream breakout of AI.

The grounds for this challenge would technically fall under ‘copyright,’ in that NYT’s intellectual property has been used to train AI models without explicit consent — and more importantly, payment

Several meetings between the two parties are said to have become ‘contentious’ with neither succumbing to the others’ terms. Experts even speculate that OpenAI could lose its dataset and be slapped with fines up to $150,000 for every piece of infringing content, should it come to that.

Already in the grips of several legal inquests, OpenAI proved it is possible for generative AI companies to strike licensing deals with news organisations, having agreed conditions with the Associated Press just last month.

Though details of the agreement were not publicly disclosed, the Associated Press claims this week to have joined other news organisations in lieu of developing standards for the use of AI in newsrooms. It acknowledges that many ‘are concerned about their material being used by AI companies without permission or payment.’

Considering that internal regulation within the world of AI remains so lax, it’s understandable that industries in which the technology is beginning to permeate are keen to lay down some ground rules. Whether any supposed indiscretions will hold up in court, however, remains to be seen.

The moment copyright law begins to supersede the development of generative AI tools, all such platforms could instantly come under threat. Establishing licences retrospectively is one thing, but holding companies accountable for content already sifted could leave them massively blindsided.

What’s more, only generative AI platforms with serious financial muscle will continue to operate at full capacity under the new guidelines. Suffice to say, the ongoing case between NYT and OpenAI could have major ramifications for technology moving forward.

‘How do we ensure that companies that use generative AI respect our intellectual property, brands, reader relationships, and investments?’ reads a recent NYT memo.

Originally written by Jamie Watts for Thred.

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