Is OpenAI Stealing Your Content?

4 Jul 2024

The number of organizations accusing OpenAI of stealing their work continues to grow like extra patties on a burger, with a prominent news organization now joining the fray with its own set of claims against the Microsoft-backed artificial intelligence startup.

In a lawsuit filed against OpenAI, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the oldest nonprofit newsroom in the US, claims the ChatGPT maker used its investigative journalism to train and enhance its generative AI product without permission or compensation.

It's a tale as old as time.

Ever since ChatGPT hit the scene, different quarters of the internet have been raising alarm bells over the data used to train generative AI, often, without permission. You've got artists, music labels, authors, heck, even programmers, who have either sued or complained against the company for allegedly using their work to build ChatGPT and its derivatives.

"This free rider behavior is not only unfair, it is a violation of copyright," Monika Bauerlein, CEO of the Center for Investigative Reporting, said in a statement.

Free rider behavior is perhaps the best way to describe what companies developing AI are doing.

Take Meta, for example. The social media giant admitted to using users' Facebook and Instagram posts to develop an AI assistant. Meanwhile, ChatGPT has been found to produce verbatim paragraphs from novels, complete verbatim copies of poems, and even articles from The New York Times!

In fact, CopyLeaks estimates that nearly 60% of the responses provided by GPT-3.5 (which is the model behind ChatGPT) contain some form of plagiarized content, the Center for Investigative Reporting says.

Grim, isn't it?

At this point, the entire output of humanity, creative or otherwise, is apparently a valid target for AI companies. The question then is, are gen AI companies just profiteering off of our work? Evidence seems to suggest so.

Reddit, for example, has already struck a deal with both OpenAI and Google to let them use content from its platform to make their AI products better. There's an age old adage: the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. That seems to fit with Reddit's partnership with OpenAI and Google, as the company will earn millions of dollars off of the deals but will likely never share its earnings with the users whose posts are gobbled up by OpenAI and Google to fine tune their AI models.

OpenAI also has similar arrangements with the Associated Press, Axel Springer, and TIME magazine to use up journalists' work to (probably) make ChatGPT even better. Other tech companies probably have something lined up with major publications as well.

This means that people who create will be left to do the heavy lifting while some tech bro is going to feed all that raw material to produce more powerful generative AI products, likely without permission or compensation.

The Center for Investigative Reporting is one of a handful of organizations that have taken OpenAI to court, joining the likes of The New York Times and others like it for allegedly infringing on its copyrights.

Suing OpenAI is not cheap, though. As The Verge reports, The NYT has raked up $1 million in legal costs during Q1 after it began its legal action, and there's no telling how long this entire saga will play out — assuming both parties don't end up settling out of court.

However, the case(s) are perhaps significant in that they could determine how AI operates within the bounds of copyright. Until then, I guess OpenAI is going to be sailing the high seas. 🏴‍☠️ 🏴‍☠️ 🏴‍☠️ ☠️☠️☠️ #IYKYK ;-)

OpenAI backer Microsoft topped HackerNoon's Tech Company Rankings this week.

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See y'all next week. PEACE! ☮️

Sheharyar Khan, Editor, Business Tech @ HackerNoon

***All rankings are current as of Monday. To see how the rankings have changed, please visit HackerNoon's Tech Company Rankings page.

Tech, What the Heck!? is a once-weekly newsletter written by HackerNoon editors that combine HackerNoon's proprietary data with news-worthy tech stories from around the internet. Humorous and insightful, the newsletter recaps trending events that are shaping the world of tech. Subscribe here.