A group of eight US newspapers filed a federal court lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI, claiming the tech companies used their articles to train generative AI models without permission.

The newspapers, which are owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital’s MediaNews Group, stated in the lawsuit that Microsoft’s Copilot and OpenAI’s ChatGPT are “purloining millions of the Publishers’ copyrighted articles without permission and without payment to fuel the commercialisation” of their GenAI products and services.

AI large language models (LLMs) need to ingest large amounts of data to train their GenAI chatbots, but publishers and authors contend their content cannot be used for such purposes without their consent and financial renumeration.

The newspaper publishers allege Microsoft-backed OpenAI used their articles to train its GPT-2 and GPT-3 LLMs and noted “the current GPT-4 LLM will output near-verbatim copies of significant portions of the Publishers’ Works when prompted to do so”.

“Such memorised examples constitute unauthorised copies or derivative works of the Publishers’ Works used to train the model”.

For Microsoft, the lawsuit stated the tech giant is copying information from their newspapers for its Bing search index which in turn helps generates answers in its Copilot chatbot without providing hyperlinks back to the newspapers’ websites.

The lawsuit also highlighted ChatGPT-generated hallucinations such as stating a newspaper article erroneously credited smoking as a cure for asthma.

“As if plagiarizing the Publishers’ work were not enough, Defendants’ products are often subject to ‘hallucinations’ where those products malign the Publishers’ credibility by falsely attributing inaccurate reporting to the Publishers’ newspapers. Beyond just profiting from the theft of the Publishers’ content, Defendants are actively tarnishing the newspapers’ reputations and spreading dangerous disinformation”.

A representative for OpenAI told Mobile World Live the company takes “great care in our products and design process to support news organisations”.

“While we were not previously aware of Alden Global Capital’s concerns, we are actively engaged in constructive partnerships and conversations with many news organisations around the world to explore opportunities, discuss any concerns and provide solutions”.

OpenAI has signed deals with media companies, such as the Financial Times and multinational media company Alex Springer, to use content from their various media sites to train its LLMs.

A representative for Microsoft declined to comment on the lawsuit.