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Copyright Battle Lines Drawn: Nonfiction Authors Take on OpenAI and Microsoft

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OpenAI faces yet another legal challenge as it is accused of appropriating intellectual property without authorization for training its generative AI technology. This time, Microsoft is also implicated as a defendant in the lawsuit. Filed by Julian Sancton on behalf of a group of non-fiction authors, the complaint asserts that these authors were not adequately compensated for the utilization of their books and academic journals in the development of OpenAI’s extensive language model.

The authors, emphasizing the considerable time and effort invested in conceiving, researching, and creating their works, allege that OpenAI and Microsoft have neglected to remunerate them while building a business valued in the tens of billions of dollars by incorporating the collective works of humanity without proper authorization. According to the complaint, the companies are accused of disregarding copyright laws, operating as if they do not apply, and profiting immensely from the unauthorized use of copyrighted material.

Julian Sancton, known for his work “Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic,” which recounts the survival tale of a 1897 polar expedition, highlights the significant investment of time and financial resources required for such creations. The lawsuit contends that the Copyright Act grants authors a set of exclusive rights, including the right to reproduce their works, in exchange for their creative efforts.

Despite OpenAI’s previous assertion that content generated by ChatGPT does not constitute “derivative work” and therefore does not infringe on copyright, Sancton’s lawsuit adds to a growing list of complaints against the company for its use of copyrighted material in training its technology. Earlier litigations, including those from notable figures like Michael Chabon, George R.R. Martin, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, and comedian Sarah Silverman against OpenAI and Meta, underscore the contentious nature of the issue. Sancton is now seeking damages and injunctive relief as part of the proposed class action involving all defendants in the lawsuit.

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