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The Times they are a-suing: NYT accuses AI heavyweights of harvesting content

The New York Times is suing a pair of high-profile AI firms alleging its articles were illegally used to train AI models on newswriting

The New York Times has filed suit against a host of AI developers it says illegally used its stories to train their AI models.

The US "paper of record" filed suit in the US District Court for Southern New York alleging that both OpenAI and Microsoft violated US copyright law when they harvested Times articles in order to gather the material needed to train their AIs.

"Defendants' unlawful use of The Times’s work to create artificial intelligence products that compete with it threatens The Times’s ability to provide that service," the suit alleges.

"Defendants' generative artificial intelligence tools rely on large-language models that were built by copying and using millions of The Times’s copyrighted news articles, in-depth investigations, opinion pieces, reviews, how-to guides, and more."

According to the complaint, the New York Times believes that the two AI companies were training AI models on more than two centuries worth of content that its meat-based staff had generated via the ages old practice of talking to humans and picking up telephones.

In contrast, it believes that the two AI giants had let its people do all the hard word and then combed through its copyrighted content in order to train the AI to copy speech and writing patterns in order to generate its own similar stories without the need for pesky human interaction.

The result of this, according to the paper, is a situation where the Times spends the time and resources needed for humans to gather and report news, while the AI companies simply sort and repackage those findings as their own original reporting.

"The protection of The Times's intellectual property is critical to its continued ability to fund world-class journalism in the public interest. If The Times and its peers cannot control the use of their content, their ability to monetize that content will be harmed," the paper argues.

"With less revenue, news organizations will have fewer journalists able to dedicate time and resources to important, in-depth stories, which creates a risk that those stories will go untold."

The Times is seeking damages and legal costs for infringement as well as an injunction barring further violations.