New York Times: Burn AI at the Stake
But be careful what you wish for
December 27, 2023: The New York Times(NYT) filed a massive lawsuit against OpenAI, Microsoft, and the entire industry that we now call artificial intelligence(AI). Their main claim is that the “large language models” (LLMs) that power AI have been trained on copyrighted materials from the New York Times and that GPT4 and other LLMs allegedly may produce verbatim text from NYT copyrighted stories. (the complete text is below)
As a writer, artist, and participant in the information industry for more than 50 years, I am a staunch supporter of copyright protection. However, with the advent of AI, the times have changed, and new rules need to be put in place. This lawsuit could be a necessary part of that process. The bottom line is the definition of fair use and plagiarism.
Be careful what you ask for
However, the NYT lawsuit also demands the destruction of all AI LLMs trained on their content. This Luddite proposition is a direct attack on the entire AI industry. At best, the NYT has alienated the most successful and productive corporations on Earth and the millions of scientists, developers, and entrepreneurs who are building our prosperous future.
At worst, the mighty NYT, in its ultimate and perhaps final act of hubris, handed OpenAI and Microsoft a loaded gun pointed at its own head and dared them to pull the trigger. No doubt, the NYT and their lawyers believe that it would be too expensive to retrain all those LLMs. But what if it isn’t? OpenAI might say fine; it’ll be cheaper than a long, expensive lawsuit and years of licensing payments. Boom.
The New York Times will have accomplished existential suicide by erasing itself from our collective AI history. And once the AI companies have gone through the pain of retraining, who among them is going to let the NYT back in without charging them plenty to once again retrain their models - and by the way, pay back all the damages collected from the alleged infringements?
The only question is: how much it is worth to the NYT not to erase itself from history?
The cornucopia of potential benefits from AI is wide-ranging and will create vast wealth, just like the invention of electricity. And just like electricity, we need to learn to manage and make AI safe. This suit is an important step in that process. There is much more to discuss in the coming weeks and months.