This probably couldn’t have ended in any other way. OpenAI, the tech firm behind the ChatGPT bot, is facing a lawsuit from bestselling writers including George R.R. Martin, John Grisham, and Jodi Picoult.
The writers are suing OpenAI over claims that their copyright was infringed to train ChatGPT, a large language model (LLM). The lawsuit claims that the authors’ books were used without their permission, and that OpenAI has been engaging in “systematic theft on a mass scale.”
Martin wrote the popular fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, which was adapted into Game of Thrones, an HBO TV series. Other prominent authors named in the complaint are Scott Turow, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, and George Saunders.
The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday on behalf of the Authors Guild and 17 noted writers in total. The complaint is the latest legal challenge facing OpenAI over the way it collects data and uses it to teach ChatGPT.
"ChatGPT and the LLMs underlying it seriously threaten the livelihood of the very authors – including plaintiffs here, as discussed specifically below – on whose works they were 'trained' without the authors' consent," the lawsuit alleges.
"ChatGPT is being used to generate low-quality ebooks, impersonating authors and displacing human-authored books."
Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire, is mentioned specifically in the complaint, which alleges that ChatGPT was used by a programmer named Liam Swayne to "write" the sequels to his best-selling series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Martin hasn't yet published the two final novels in the series – to the anguish of his fans, he's still writing them – but Swayne used ChatGPT to create his own versions of these novels.
"When prompted, ChatGPT accurately generated summaries of several of the Martin infringed works, including summaries for Martin's novels A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, the first three books in the series A Song of Ice and Fire," the suit notes.
"ChatGPT could not have generated the results described above if OpenAI's LLMs had not ingested and been 'trained' on Martin’s infringed works.”
The authors want the court to prohibit OpenAI from using copyrighted works in LLMs without express authorization. They’re also seeking damages including up to $150,000 per infringed work.
The complainants say that OpenAI has openly admitted to reproducing copyrighted works in the course of training its LLMs because such reproduction is allegedly central to the quality of its products.
Even ChatGPT, when asked, responded: “It is possible that some of the books used to train me were under copyright. However, my training data was sourced from various publicly available sources on the internet, and it is likely that some of the books included in my training dataset were not authorized to be used.”
“If any copyrighted material was included in my training data, it would have been used without the knowledge or consent of the copyright holder.”
The Authors Guild helped to organize an open letter in July, urging AI firms not to use copyrighted material without permission. Complaints about AI-produced works sold under human writers’ names have also forced Amazon to announce the requirement that authors inform it when content is machine-generated.
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