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Famous authors’ lawsuit against ChatGPT developer gets underway

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(NEW YORK) — A federal judge in New York on Wednesday will hold the first hearing in a closely watched case about copyright concerns raised by artificial intelligence.

A group of well-known authors, including David Baldacci, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, George R.R. Martin and Jodi Picoult, is suing OpenAI over the alleged misuse of their work to train the popular chatbot ChatGPT.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in September on behalf of the authors by the Authors Guild and accuses OpenAI of copying works of fiction without permission.

“Defendants then fed Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works into their ‘large language models’ or ‘LLMs,’ algorithms designed to output human-seeming text responses to users’ prompts and queries,” the lawsuit claims. “These algorithms are at the heart of Defendants’ massive commercial enterprise. And at the heart of these algorithms is systematic theft on a mass scale.”

OpenAI argued its training of ChatGPT with material found online qualifies as fair use under copyright law, but the authors said OpenAI should pay a licensing fee.

“Unfairly, and perversely, without Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works on which to ‘train’ their LLMs, Defendants would have no commercial product with which to damage — if not usurp — the market for these professional authors’ works. Defendants’ willful copying thus makes Plaintiffs’ works into engines of their own destruction,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit signals a growing concern for artists when it comes to artificial intelligence. One of the main tenants of the recently settled actors strike also centered on the use of AI.

“The Authors Guild serves to protect the literary landscape and the profession of writing. This case is merely the beginning of our battle to defend authors from theft by OpenAI and other generative AI,” said Maya Shanbhag Lang, president of the Authors Guild.

An OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News at the time of the lawsuit’s filing that the company has held constructive discussions in general with creators and remains confident its technology will prove beneficial to them.

“Creative professionals around the world use ChatGPT as a part of their creative process. We respect the rights of writers and authors, and believe they should benefit from AI technology,” the spokesperson said. “We’re having productive conversations with many creators around the world, including the Authors Guild, and have been working cooperatively to understand and discuss their concerns about AI.”

The plaintiffs have requested a jury trial and an award of statutory damages up to $150,000 for each infringed work, among other relief, according to the lawsuit.

ABC News’ Max Zahn contributed to this report.

 

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