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April 22, 2024
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OpenAI gets partial win in authors’ copyright lawsuit

A federal judge in California has dismissed parts of a copyright lawsuit brought by comedian Sarah Silverman, Michael Chabon, Ta-Nehisi Coates and other authors against OpenAI over its alleged use of their books to train the large language model underlying its popular chatbot ChatGPT.

U.S. District Judge Araceli Martinez-Olguin on Monday granted most of Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s motion to dismiss many of the writers’ claims for now, rejecting their arguments that the content generated by ChatGPT infringes their copyrights and that the company unjustly enriched itself with their work.

Martinez-Olguin joined other federal judges who have so far rejected allegations that the output of generative AI systems violates the rights of copyright holders whose works were supposedly used to train them.

Courts have not yet addressed the core question of whether tech companies’ unauthorized use of material scraped from the internet to train AI infringes copyrights on a massive scale. OpenAI, Microsoft and other companies have said that their AI training is protected by the copyright doctrine of fair use and that the lawsuits threaten the burgeoning AI industry.

Representatives for the authors and OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Several groups of copyright owners including writers, visual artists and music publishers have sued major tech companies over the alleged misuse of their work to train generative AI systems. The group of authors that includes Silverman, Coates and Chabon sued OpenAI and Meta Platforms over their systems last year.

OpenAI argued in August that ChatGPT’s output is not similar enough to the authors’ books to violate their copyrights. Martinez-Olguin agreed on Monday that the authors “fail to explain what the outputs entail or allege that any particular output is substantially similar — or similar at all — to their books.”

Martinez-Olguin gave the authors permission to file an amended complaint by March 13.

The authors asked the court last week to halt similar high-profile cases brought in New York by The New York Times and other writers including John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen and George R.R. Martin, calling them “copycat” lawsuits. They filed related motions in the New York cases on Monday.

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