The US Authors Guild has filed a lawsuit against ChatGPT creator OpenAI, accusing the company of “systematic theft on a mass scale”.
The author of the Game of Thrones series of books is among a group of 17 writers who have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against OpenAI, accusing the Microsoft-backed company of using their copyrighted novels to train its popular artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot.
The proposed class-action lawsuit was filed late on Tuesday by the Authors Guild representing 17 writers, including Jodi Picault, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham and George RR Martin.
In the filing, the authors said OpenAI copied their works “wholesale, without permission or consideration” and fed them into its chatbot. In doing so, they claim OpenAI endangered their ability to make a living off their work, as ChatGPT allows anyone to generate texts that they “would otherwise pay writers to create”.
“These algorithms are at the heart of [the d]efendants’ massive commercial enterprise,” the document reads. “And at the heart of these algorithms is systematic theft on a mass scale.”
The filing added that the use of AI chatbots allows companies to create material that “is based on, mimics, summarises, or paraphrases” the authors’ work.
The writers claim the company trained ChatGPT on a dataset that included text from the authors’ books that may have been illegally uploaded to the internet, instead of using only data that is in the public domain. It also says the company should have paid a licensing fee for the content.
“It is imperative that we stop this theft in its tracks or we will destroy our incredible literary culture, which feeds many other creative industries in the US,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.
“Great books are generally written by those who spend their careers and, indeed, their lives, learning and perfecting their crafts. To preserve our literature, authors must have the ability to control if and how their works are used by generative AI.”
The filing cites specific ChatGPT searches for each author as examples. One states that the chatbot generated “an infringing, unauthorised, and detailed outline for a prequel” to Martin’s popular book series entitled A Dawn of Direwolves, which allegedly used “the same characters from A Song of Ice and Fire”.
The document also cites a response from ChatGPT itself, in which the chatbot stated that “it is possible that some of the books used to train me were under copyright” and that, in that case, “it would have been used without the knowledge or consent of the copyright holder”.
In response, an OpenAI spokesperson said: “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.
“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. We’re optimistic we will continue to find mutually beneficial ways to work together to help people utilise new technology in a rich content ecosystem.”
The lawsuit is one of several copyright infringement suits that have been filed against AI developers. Writer Michael Chabon sued the company in September, while comedian Sarah Silverman and authors Christopher Golden and Richard Kadrey also sought legal action in July. Writers Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad filed a complaint in June.
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