The big picture: As artificial intelligence continues to grow, many companies are now being forced to decide whether to embrace or reject AI. This revelation is especially prominent in the world of news media, a source where countless AI companies are pulling information to teach their AI models.
According to a report by National Public Radio (NPR), both the New York Times and OpenAI have been in “tense negotiations over reaching a licensing deal” in recent weeks. This agreement would allow OpenAI to legally train its ChatGPT model off of material published by the Times, something the newspaper decided to prohibit earlier this month.
This isn’t the first time OpenAI has attempted to secure a deal with a news agency, as it successfully reached one with the Associated Press, one of the biggest agencies in the world. OpenAI being allowed to train its ChatGPT with not one but two major news sources could prove to improve the AI model significantly in the coming years.
However, NPR reports that these negotiations have not gone as smoothly as OpenAI had planned. In fact, two anonymous sources spoke with NPR, claiming that the Times is now considering legal action due to “the discussions becoming so pretentious.” A lawsuit with a group as large as the Times could be disastrous for the much smaller team at OpenAI.
According to one of the sources, a large fear for the Times is related to the usage of AI within search engines. When a user searches for a topic, rather than needing to click on an article posted by the Times, AI can simply summarize whatever was written by the journalist. “The need to visit the publisher’s website is greatly diminished,” the source claims.
An AI model learns nearly all of its information by scrubbing websites and collecting any data that it deems necessary, sometimes without prior authorization from the original source. This raises a huge question regarding not only the morality but also the legality of performing such a task, as it can fall into a “gray area” with copyright.
If the lawsuit does come to fruition and OpenAI is found to be violating copyright laws, the federal judge could force OpenAI to completely wipe ChatGPT’s data set and start from scratch. OpenAI would be allowed to rebuild ChatGPT’s database, but only with information it is authorized to utilize, which will undoubtedly slow the process down significantly.
Along with that setback, federal copyright laws have major monetary fines, reaching up to $150,000 per infringement if committed intentionally. “If you’re copying millions of works, you can see how that becomes a number that becomes potentially fatal for a company,” says Daniel Gervais, co-director of the intellectual property program at Vanderbilt University.
The Times would not be the first group to file a lawsuit against an AI company. Earlier this year, Getty Images sued Stability AI for training its Stable Diffusion AI using photos from Getty Images without authorization. However, Getty Images did not seek financial compensation from Stability AI; instead, it wished to rebuild the model in hopes of “respecting intellectual property.”
A class-action lawsuit has also been filed against OpenAI, which claims ChatGPT scraped data from millions of users without prior knowledge or consent. This information was pulled from various third-party apps such as Spotify, Microsoft Teams, and Snapchat, among many others, but users were not informed.
Whether or not the Times will move forward with the lawsuit is yet to be seen. It is also unknown if negotiations between the Times and OpenAI are still ongoing or if they have since fallen through. Nonetheless, a lawsuit of this size could very well spell disaster for the survival of not only OpenAI but quite possibly all AI companies.