US newspapers sue OpenAI for copyright infringement over AI training

By Blake Brittain

(Reuters) – A group of newspapers, including the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune, sued Microsoft and OpenAI in New York federal court on Tuesday, accusing them of misusing reporters’ work to train their generative artificial-intelligence systems.

The eight newspapers, owned by investment firm Alden Global Capital’s MediaNews Group, said in the lawsuit that the companies unlawfully copied millions of their articles to train AI products, including Microsoft’s Copilot and OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

The complaint follows similar ongoing lawsuits against Microsoft and OpenAI, which has received billions in financial backing from Microsoft, brought by the New York Times and news outlets The Intercept, Raw Story and AlterNet.

An OpenAI spokesperson said on Tuesday that the company takes “great care in our products and design process to support news organizations.” A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment on the complaint.

The newspaper cases are among several potential landmark lawsuits brought by copyright owners against tech companies over the data used to train their generative AI systems.

A lawyer for the MediaNews publications, Steven Lieberman, told Reuters that OpenAI owed its runaway success to the works of others. The defendants know they have to pay for computers, chips, and employee salaries, but “think somehow they can get away with taking content” without permission or payment, he said.

The lawsuit said Microsoft and OpenAI’s systems reproduce the newspapers’ copyrighted content “verbatim” when prompted. It said ChatGPT also “hallucinates” articles attributed to the newspapers that harm their reputations, including a fake Denver Post article touting smoking as an asthma cure and a bogus Chicago Tribune recommendation for an infant lounger that was recalled after being linked to child deaths.

The plaintiffs also include the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Twin Cities Pioneer Press. They asked the court for unspecified monetary damages and an order blocking any further infringement.

(This story has been corrected to fix the description of Alden Global Capital from a hedge fund to an investment firm, in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by David Bario and Aurora Ellis)