A trade group for U.S. authors has sued OpenAI in Manhattan federal court on behalf of prominent writers, including Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders, Jodi Picoult, and “Game of Thrones” novelist George R.R. Martin, accusing the company of unlawfully training its popular artificial-intelligence based chatbot ChatGPT on their work. The Authors Guild, representing more than 8,000 writers, hopes to get the lawsuit classified as a class action.
In their suit, the authors claim that the large language models (LLMs) used to train ChatGPT violate their copyrights because they generate text based on, mimic, or paraphrase their works without their permission. The authors say this is particularly troubling because their livelihood depends on writing fiction, and the use of LLMs by defendants threatens to harm the market for their works.
According to the suit, OpenAI downloaded copies of the authors’ books and fed them into its extensive language model library to create a program that can respond to human prompts with accurate summaries and other content. The authors allege that the company may have obtained this data from illegal online “pirate” book repositories and that the copyright infringement is intentional and willful.
The authors’ lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, monetary damages, and other compensation for themselves and all proposed class members. It also requests that the court impose strict cybersecurity safeguards, oversight, accountability, and transparency protocols on companies using their copyrighted material in their A.I. products.
OpenAI could defend itself by arguing that its use of the authors’ work is fair use under U.S. copyright law, which allows a limited amount of unauthorized content to be used in an A.I. system for specific purposes such as creating a search engine. To determine whether a particular unauthorized use is fair, courts consider four statutory factors: the purpose and character of the alleged infringement, the nature of the underlying copyrighted material copied, the quantity and significance of the underlying copyrighted material used, and the impact of the alleged infringement on the market for the original work.
This latest lawsuit is the third to be filed this year against generative A.I. providers by the Authors Guild. The Guild has similar lawsuits against Microsoft-backed Meta Platforms and Stability A.I. over the same issue.