Game of Thrones author George RR Martin. Image: Henry Söderlund/CC BY 4.0

The Authors Guild, a trade group representing US authors, has filed a lawsuit against OpenAI in Manhattan federal court. The lawsuit is on behalf of prominent authors such as John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders, Jodi Picoult, and George RR Martin, the novelist behind Game of Thrones. The authors accuse OpenAI of unlawfully training its popular AI-based chatbot, ChatGPT, on their work.

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The Context

This proposed class-action lawsuit is not an isolated case. It joins several others from writers, source-code owners, and visual artists against providers of generative AI. Microsoft-backed OpenAI is not the only company facing such lawsuits; similar ones are pending against Meta Platforms and Stability AI over the data used to train their AI systems.

Other authors involved in the latest lawsuit include Michael Connelly, writer of The Lincoln Lawyer, and lawyer-novelists David Baldacci and Scott Turow.

The Defense

OpenAI and other AI defendants have defended their actions by stating that their use of training data scraped from the internet qualifies as fair use under US copyright law. An OpenAI spokesman stated on Wednesday that the company respects authors’ rights and is “having productive conversations with many creators around the world, including the Authors Guild”.

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Top authors sue OpenAI over copyright

Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild, stated that authors “must have the ability to control if and how their works are used by generative AI” in order to “preserve our literature”.

The lawsuit alleges that the datasets used to train OpenAI’s large language model included text from the authors’ books that may have been sourced from illegal online “pirate” book repositories. The complaint also mentioned that ChatGPT generated accurate summaries of the authors’ books when prompted, indicating that their text is included in its database. It further cited growing concerns that authors could be replaced by systems like ChatGPT that “generate low-quality e-books, impersonating authors and displacing human-authored books”.

By Shamiso Miracle

Shamiso Miracle completed her degree in journalism and media studies at the University of Zimbabwe before honing her skills at Savanna News. She then went on to work at iHarare News, becoming a voice for everyday SA citizens who wanted to share their stories. When she's not writing news that entertains and inspires ,Shamiso is an avid reader and a wellness bunny.

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