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The Author’s Guild launches class-action lawsuit against OpenAI

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The Author’s Guild in the United States opened a class-action lawsuit against the Microsoft-backed OpenAI on Sept. 19 due to its alleged misuse of copyrighted material in the training of its artificial intelligence (AI) models.

According to court documents, the oldest and largest professional organization for writers in the U.S. is operating under the Copyright Act and seeking “redress” for what it calls “flagrant and harmful infringement” of registered copyrights in written works of fiction.

It goes on to argue that works were copied wholesale and without permission or “consideration” by feeding them into large language models (LLMs).

“These algorithms are at the heart of Defendants’ massive commercial enterprise. And at the heart of these algorithms is systematic theft on a mass scale.”

The Author’s Guild said it represents a class of professional fiction writers whose “works spring from their own minds and their creative literary expression.” It says, therefore, that since their livelihoods derive from these creative works, the LLMs “endanger” the ability of fiction writers to make a living.

It suggested that the AI models could’ve been trained via the public domain, or OpenAI could have paid a licensing fee for the usage of the copyrighted works.

“What Defendants could not do was evade the Copyright Act altogether to power their lucrative commercial endeavor, taking whatever datasets of relatively recent books they could get their hands on without authorization.”

On Sept. 11, the Guild posted an article on X about how authors can protect their work from AI web crawlers. 

Pinned to the top of its profile, the Author’s Guild has a link to its advocacy work in regards to AI technologies.

Related: Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman talk AI regs in Washington

This filing from the Author’s Guild follows updates in a similar lawsuit against Meta and OpenAI and their respective AI models using copyrighted material in training.

Author Sarah Silverman and others opened the lawsuit in July; however, now both companies have asked judges to dismiss the claims.

In August, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a notice of inquiry on AI, seeking public comment on topics related to AI content production and how it should be handled by policymakers when AI content mimics that which is made by human creators.

Prior to the inquiry, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that artwork created solely by AI is not eligible for copyright protection.

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