A trade guild representing US fiction writers such as John Grisham, George R.R. Martin and Jodi Picoult has sued OpenAI over alleged copyright infringement for using their novels to train ChatGPT’s large language models.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the Authors Guild late Tuesday (19 September) in a federal court in Manhattan, New York, stated OpenAI copied “Plaintiffs’ works wholesale, without permission or consideration,” and then fed them into its large language model algorithms that were “designed to output human-seeming text responses to users’ prompts and queries”.

“These algorithms are at the heart of Defendants ’massive commercial enterprise,” the Authors Guild’s filing stated. “And at the heart of these algorithms is systematic theft on a mass scale”.

One of the concerns over the use of generative AI chatbots is a lack of clarity about which intellectual property (IP) source code or open language is being used to gather information to develop the platforms.

Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger stated “authors must have the ability to control if and how their works are used by generative AI,” and noted it was “imperative that we stop this theft in its tracks or we will destroy our incredible literary culture”.

OpenAI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the New York lawsuit.

Reuters recently reported a similar lawsuit is pending against Meta Platforms. That lawsuit also alleged authors’ copyrighted material was being used to train the social media giant’s AI-based large language model Llama.

Microsoft announced earlier this month it would protect customers using its generative AI-powered Copilot programme from copyright infringement lawsuits, in an attempt to ease apprehension about the risk of IP claims.