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The New York Times vs. OpenAI and Microsoft: A Landmark Legal Battle Over AI and Copyright

Shelly Palmer has been named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” and writes a popular daily business blog.
Headquarters of The New York Times in New York City

Greetings from Manchester, VT. The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging copyright infringement. The suit claims that millions of The Times's articles were used to train AI chatbots like ChatGPT, which now compete with traditional news sources.

The complaint does not specify a monetary figure, but demands “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” for the “unlawful copying and use” of The Times's content. It also seeks the destruction of any AI models and training data incorporating The Times's copyrighted material.

The Times's case centers on the accusation that OpenAI and Microsoft have used its journalism to create competing products, thereby impacting its audience and revenue. The lawsuit follows failed negotiations between The Times, Microsoft, and OpenAI, where The Times sought a resolution that might include a commercial agreement and specific guidelines for AI products.

Some news outlets – such as The Associated Press and Axel Springer (the German publisher that owns Politico and Business Insider) – have already signed licensing deals with OpenAI. This lawsuit may just come down to agreeing on terms.

This legal action is indicative, however, of a broader trend of copyright concerns in the creative industry. High-profile cases include Sarah Silverman, Jonathan Franzen, and John Grisham suing over the use of their works in AI training, as well as Getty Images' lawsuit against Stability AI for using its copyrighted visual materials.

The lawsuit also highlights AI's potential impact on traditional journalism. It cites instances where AI-generated content, based on The Times's work, is made available without proper attribution or compensation, leading to potential revenue losses.

No matter how you feel about The New York Times, this lawsuit is one to watch. If the future of generative AI models requires vast amounts of training data, determining what data is protected and what data may fall under fair use is "the" question.

As always your thoughts and comments are both welcome and encouraged. Just reply to this email. -s

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Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit