Authors Take on Microsoft and OpenAI in Landmark Lawsuit Over AI Training Practices

Microsoft's Defense in New York Times' AI Lawsuit Echoes Historical Precedents

Microsoft and OpenAI are facing a major legal battle as nonfiction authors, Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage, file a putative class action lawsuit accusing the tech giants of infringing on their copyrights. The authors allege that their works were unlawfully used to train artificial intelligence models, including the widely popular ChatGPT.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, follows in the footsteps of a similar action initiated by The New York Times against Microsoft and OpenAI. Both suits claim that copyrighted content was exploited to train large language models, such as those powering ChatGPT.

The authors contend that, in the wake of The New York Times’ legal action, the defendants publicly acknowledged the need to compensate copyright owners for the use of their work. The Times’ lawsuit is seeking “billions of dollars” in damages.

Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage aim to represent a class of writers whose copyrighted works have allegedly been misappropriated by Microsoft and OpenAI. The lawsuit portrays the companies as no different from common thieves, asserting that the alleged systematic pilfering demands accountability.

The proposed class would encompass all U.S. authors or legal owners of copyrights for works utilized by the defendants to train their large language models. The estimated size of this class is tens of thousands of individuals.

The authors seek damages of up to $150,000 for each infringed work. Notably, this lawsuit takes a broader approach than the previous action by prominent fiction writers, expanding its scope to represent a wider class of plaintiffs.

Michael Richter, the lawyer representing Basbanes and Gage, emphasizes the gravity of the situation, comparing OpenAI’s use of copyrighted work without permission to a homeowner refusing to pay for concealed materials like insulation and plumbing.

The lawsuit highlights OpenAI’s reliance on massive amounts of written material for training its AI systems, including books authored by Basbanes and Gage. Microsoft and OpenAI are yet to respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Nicholas Basbanes, a seasoned journalist and author, has penned several books exploring the world of book collecting, such as “A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books.” Nicholas Gage, an investigative reporter, gained prominence with his best-selling memoir “Eleni,” later adapted into a film starring John Malkovich.

As the legal battle unfolds, it reflects the broader challenges and ethical considerations surrounding the use of copyrighted content to train AI systems, sparking a crucial dialogue between content creators and technology innovators.

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