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OpenAI responds to New York Times lawsuit, says ‘regurgitation’ of content is a ‘rare bug’

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, at the Hope Global Forums annual meeting in Atlanta on Dec. 11, 2023.

Dustin Chambers | Bloomberg | Getty Images

On Monday, OpenAI, the artificial intelligence startup behind viral chatbot ChatGPT, clapped back at The New York Times in a statement over the news outlet’s recently filed lawsuit over copyright infringement.

In December, The New York Times filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI, alleging intellectual property violations related to its journalistic content appearing in ChatGPT training data. According to a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Times seeks to hold Microsoft and OpenAI accountable for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.”

OpenAI wrote in a statement Monday that the startup disagreed with the Times’ lawsuit, writing, “We collaborate with news organizations and are creating new opportunities. Training is fair use, but we provide an opt-out because it’s the right thing to do.” The company added that “regurgitation,” or spitting out entire “memorized” parts of specific pieces of content or articles, “is a rare bug that we are working to drive to zero.”

In a blog post, OpenAI wrote that the startup’s discussions with the Times “had appeared to be progressing constructively through our last communication on December 19,” with negotiations focusing on displaying Times content with attribution in ChatGPT — seemingly similar to the deal Axel Springer recently struck with OpenAI.

“Their lawsuit on December 27—which we learned about by reading The New York Times—came as a surprise and disappointment to us,” OpenAI wrote in the blog post.

The Times’ lawsuit is one of a handful of recent legal actions against companies behind popular generative AI tools, including chatbots such as ChatGPT. In September, a group of prominent U.S. authors, including Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, George R.R. Martin and Jodi Picoult, sued OpenAI over alleged copyright infringement in using their work to train ChatGPT. In July, two authors filed a similar lawsuit against OpenAI, alleging that their books were used to train the company’s chatbot without their consent.

On the image generation side of things, Getty Images sued Stability AI in February, alleging that the company behind the viral text-to-image generator copied 12 million of Getty’s images for training data. In January, Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt were hit with a class action lawsuit over copyright claims in their AI image generators.

Finally, when it comes to AI-generated code, Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI are involved in a proposed class action lawsuit, filed in 2022, which alleges that the companies scraped licensed code to train their code generators. There are several other generative AI-related lawsuits currently out there.

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