The Intercept, Raw Story, and AlterNet file federal lawsuits against OpenAI for using copyrighted journalism

The lawsuits allege the AI developer violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by training ChatGPT on copyrighted content.   Unlike other recent cases, these lawsuits offer a path to compensation and better protection from infringement for impacted news organizations without the need for expensive copyright registrations of thousands of works.

Today, the law firm Loevy + Loevy filed lawsuits in the Southern District of New York on behalf of The Intercept, Raw Story, and AlterNet against OpenAI for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These lawsuits light a path for how online news organizations who have been unable to afford the exorbitant fees for copyright registrations of online works—which are generally required to bring traditional copyright infringement claims—can demand compensation for the flagrant misappropriation of their works by AI developers.

For years, OpenAI has trained its flagship product, ChatGPT, using the copyright-protected works of news organizations and other content creators.  Had OpenAI trained ChatGPT using these works as they were published, including author, title, and copyright information, ChatGPT may have learned to respect third-party copyrights, or at least inform ChatGPT users that it was providing responses that were based on the copyrighted works of others.  Instead, OpenAI removed that information from its ChatGPT training sets, in violation of the DMCA. 

The DMCA was passed in 1998 to provide better protection from copyright infringement in light of technological advances.  In violation of the DMCA, OpenAI not only used copyright-protected news stories to create ChatGPT, but effectively programmed ChatGPT to pass off its responses as its own work.  According to research organization Copyleaks, nearly 60% of GPT-3.5 responses contained plagiarized content.

“Developers like OpenAI have garnered billions in investment and revenue because of AI products fundamentally created with and trained on copyright-protected material,” said Loevy + Loevy partner Matt Topic, who represents the news organizations in the suits.  “The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the removal of author, title, and copyright notice when there is reason to know it would conceal or facilitate copyright infringement, and unlike traditional copyright infringement claims, it does not require creators to incur the copyright registration fees that often make traditional copyright infringement suits cost prohibitive given the massive scale of OpenAI’s infringement.”

“We are proud to represent these great organizations, and we hope these suits will encourage more news organizations to take a stand against unauthorized use of their work by the AI industry,” said Loevy + Loevy founder Jon Loevy.  “We are ready and willing to help.”

The plaintiffs in the suits are awarding-winning online news organizations The Intercept, Raw Story, and AlterNet.

“This is a time when non-profit news organizations are struggling to find sufficient financial support for journalism that holds companies like Microsoft and OpenAI to account.  As newsrooms throughout the country are decimated by financial imperatives to cutback, OpenAI reaps the benefits of our content,” said Annie Chabel, Chief Executive Officer of The Intercept.  “We hope this lawsuit will send a strong message to AI developers who chose to ignore our copyrights and free ride on the hard work of our journalists.”

“Raw Story’s copyright-protected journalism is the result of significant efforts of human journalists who report the news,” said Raw Story Publisher Roxanne Cooper. “Rather than license that work, OpenAI taught ChatGPT to ignore journalists’ copyrights and hide its use of copyright-protected material.”

Loevy + Loevy is a national public-interest trial boutique that challenges injustices by the government and big business. Loevy + Loevy has a long history of representing news organizations and other intellectual property owners. 

Copies of the complaints are available here:
The Intercept Media, Inc. v. OpenAI, Inc., et al., Case No. 24-cv-01515 (SDNY)
Raw Story Media, Inc., AlterNet Media, Inc. v. OpenAI, Inc., et al., Case No. 24-cv-01514 (SDNY)

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