The New York Times on Wednesday sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, opening a new front in the intensifying legal battle over the unauthorized use of published works to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular AI platforms, over copyright issues associated with their written works. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattanargues that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the media outlet as a trusted source of information.

The demand does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held liable for “billions of dollars in legal and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of the Times’ exceptionally valuable works.” It also requires companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use Times copyrighted material.

In its complaint, The Times said it approached Microsoft and OpenAI in April to raise concerns about the use of its intellectual property and explore “an amicable resolution,” possibly involving a trade deal and “technological guardrails” around the products. of generative AI. But he said the talks had not produced a resolution.

An OpenAI spokeswoman, Lindsey Held, said in a statement that the company had been “constructively moving forward” in talks with The Times and was “surprised and disappointed” by the lawsuit.

“We respect the rights of content creators and owners and are committed to working with them to ensure they benefit from AI technology and new revenue models,” Held said. “We are hoping to find a mutually beneficial way to work together, as we are doing with many other publishers.”

Microsoft declined to comment on the case.

The lawsuit could test the emerging legal contours of generative AI technologies (named for the text, images and other content they can create after learning from large data sets) and could have major implications for the industry. News. The Times is among a small number of outlets that have built successful business models on online journalism, but dozens of newspapers and magazines have been hampered by the migration of readers to the Internet.

At the same time, OpenAI and other AI technology companies – which use a wide variety of online texts, from newspaper articles to poems and scripts to train chatbots – are attracting billions of dollars in funding.

Investors now value OpenAI at more than $80 billion. Microsoft has committed $13 billion to OpenAI and has incorporated the company’s technology into its Bing search engine.

“Defendants seek to take advantage of the Times’ enormous investment in its journalism,” the lawsuit says, accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of “using the Times’ content without payment to create products that replace the Times and steal its audience.”

The defendants have not been given the opportunity to respond in court.

Concerns about the uncompensated use of intellectual property by AI systems have spread across the creative industries, given the technology’s ability to mimic natural language and generate sophisticated written responses to virtually any message.

Actress Sarah Silverman joined a pair of lawsuits in July that accused Meta and OpenAI of having “ingested” her memoirs as training text for AI programs. Novelists expressed alarm when it was revealed that AI systems had absorbed tens of thousands of books, leading to a lawsuit from authors including Jonathan Franzen and John Grisham. Getty Images, the photography union, sued an artificial intelligence company that generates images based on written prompts, saying the platform relies on unauthorized use of Getty’s copyrighted visual materials.

The limits of copyright law often come under new scrutiny in times of technological change – such as the advent of broadcasting or digital file-sharing programs like Napster – and the use of artificial intelligence is emerging as the latest border.

“A Supreme Court decision is essentially inevitable” Richard Tofel, former president of the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica and a news business consultant, about the latest wave of lawsuits. “Some of the publishers will settle for a period of time – possibly still including The Times – but enough publishers will not, so this novel and crucial issue of copyright law will need to be resolved.”

Microsoft has previously acknowledged potential copyright concerns over its artificial intelligence products. In September, the company announced that if customers using its AI tools received copyright complaints, it would compensate them and cover associated legal costs.

Other voices in the tech industry have been more assertive in their approach to copyright. In October, Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm and an early backer of OpenAI, wrote in comments to the US Copyright Office. that exposing AI companies to copyright liability “would kill or significantly hinder their development.”

“The result will be much less competition, much less innovation, and most likely the loss of the United States’ position as a leader in global AI development,” the investment firm said in its statement.

In addition to seeking to protect intellectual property, The Times’ lawsuit presents ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence systems as potential competitors in the news business. When chatbots are asked about current events or other newsworthy topics, they can generate answers that are based on The Times’ journalism. The newspaper expresses concern that readers will be satisfied with a chatbot response and decline to visit the Times website, thereby reducing web traffic that can translate into advertising and subscription revenue.

The complaint cites several examples in which a chatbot provided users with near-verbatim excerpts from Times articles that would otherwise require a paid subscription to view. It claims that OpenAI and Microsoft placed special emphasis on using Times journalism in training their AI programs because of the perceived reliability and accuracy of the material.

Media organizations have spent the past year examining the legal, financial and journalistic implications of the rise of generative AI. Some media outlets have already reached agreements for the use of their journalism: The Associated Press reached a licensing agreement in July with OpenAI, and Axel Springer, the German publisher that owns Politico and Business Insider, followed suit this month. The terms of those agreements were not disclosed.

The Times is exploring how to use the nascent technology. The newspaper recently hired editorial director of artificial intelligence initiatives to establish protocols for the use of AI in newsrooms and examine ways to integrate the technology into the company’s journalism.

In an example of how AI systems use Times material, the lawsuit showed that Browse With Bing, a Microsoft search feature powered by ChatGPT, reproduced almost word-for-word results from Wirecutter, the product review site. of the Times. However, Bing’s text results did not link to the Wirecutter article and removed the in-text referral links that Wirecutter uses to generate sales commissions based on its recommendations.

“Decreased traffic to Wirecutter articles and, in turn, decreased traffic to affiliate links subsequently lead to a loss of revenue for Wirecutter,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit also highlights potential damage to the Times brand through so-called AI “hallucinations,” a phenomenon in which chatbots insert false information that is then misattributed to a source. The complaint cites several instances in which Microsoft’s Bing Chat provided incorrect information said to have come from The Times, including results for “the 15 most heart-healthy foods,” 12 of which were not mentioned in a newspaper article.

“If The Times and other news organizations cannot produce and protect their independent journalism, there will be a void that no computer or artificial intelligence can fill,” the complaint reads. He adds: “Less journalism will be produced and the cost to society will be enormous.”

The Times has hired the law firms Susman Godfrey and Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck as outside counsel for the litigation. Susman represented Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation case against Fox News, which resulted in a $787.5 million settlement in April. susman also presented a class-action lawsuit proposed last month against Microsoft and OpenAI on behalf of nonfiction authors whose books and other copyrighted material were used to train the companies’ chatbots.

Benjamin Mullin contributed with reports.