Major news publishers plan coalition to sue AI companies

Top US and international publishers aren’t happy about artificial intelligence firms using their original content to train generative AI models. A massive joint lawsuit might be incoming.

The New York Times, News Corp, Axel Springer, Dotdash Meredith owner IAC, and other publishers are in the process of forming a coalition to take on AI giants such as Google and ChatGPT creator OpenAI, Semafor reports.

The problem lies in uncontrolled content scraping, which is done by AI firms to train large language models. This has become a common issue for publishers and content creators, and has led to quite a few lawsuits already.

Google and OpenAI are already facing a couple of class-action lawsuits. But this seems much bigger, as IAC – the holding initiating legal action – is, according to Semafor, supported by the two major industry players, The New York Times and News Corp, as well as Axel Springer, a European multi-national publisher.

All these firms are reportedly close to formalizing a coalition that could lead a lawsuit and press for legislative action. Naturally, they seek new rules that would govern the training of AI models on media content.

Joey Levin, chief executive of IAC, told Semafor that an AI takeover of the media “could be more profound” than fears that AI is going to take over the world,

To be fair, many publishers have begun to experiment with AI tools aimed at making writing more efficient. They’re also getting ready for AI to replace at least some human jobs.

For instance, Germany’s Bild tabloid has already warned staff that it expects to make editorial cuts due to “the opportunities of artificial intelligence”.

Bild’s publisher, Axel Springer, said in an email to staff seen by the rival Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that it would “unfortunately be parting ways with colleagues who have tasks that in the digital world are performed by AI and/or automated processes.”

And BuzzFeed is already using AI to “enhance” content and online quizzes – the 40 or so articles, according to Futurism, are tragicomically bland and tell the reader about dozens of places that are all somehow “hidden gems.”

But publishers probably fear for their revenue more than staff. Semafor says that the most urgent threat for them is a possible shift at Google from sending traffic to web pages to simply answering users’ queries with a chatbot. For instance, a link to a review on the Food & Wine website, owned by IAC, could be replaced by a simple text recommendation of a bottle of Malbec – without attribution.

For their part, tech executives and AI developers say they haven’t yet figured out a business model for AI – it’s too early, they say. However, Google has already developed a tool that it says will help journalists write articles – surely, students might soon be able to perform journalistic duties to a high standard without the need for a Master’s degree.

Semafor believes that publishers are determined not to repeat what many see as the mistakes of the social media era when they gave away their content for free.

The Associated Press (AP), a news agency, is already maneuvering. Earlier this month, it inked a deal with OpenAI to license an archive of news stories. As part of the deal, the AP’s “text archive” will be made accessible to OpenAI, while AP will tap into the tech company’s “technology and product expertise.”

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