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Authors Guild claims OpenAI used pirated eBooks to train ChatGPT on copyrighted material Authors Guild claims OpenAI used pirated eBooks to train ChatGPT on copyrighted material

Authors Guild claims OpenAI used pirated eBooks to train ChatGPT on copyrighted material

George R.R. Martin angry AI can generate alternate ending to Game of Thrones? Or an existential threat to authors?

Authors Guild claims OpenAI used pirated eBooks to train ChatGPT on copyrighted material

Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wikimedia. Remixed by CryptoSlate

The Authors Guild and seventeen renowned authors, including the likes of John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, David Baldacci, and George R.R. Martin, have lodged a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI on Sept. 20, in the Southern District of New York.

As revealed by The Authors Guild, the lawsuit alleges copyright infringement of their works of fiction used to train OpenAI’s Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT), a language model that generates text.

The plaintiffs contend that the unauthorized duplication of their copyrighted works by OpenAI, without offering options or any form of remuneration, not only transforms the commercial landscape of the AI firm’s product but also poses a significant threat to the livelihood and role of authors.

The lawsuit highlights the apparent existential threat to authors from the unrestricted utilization of books to develop large language models that generate text. According to the Guild’s latest author income survey, the median full-time author income in 2022 was slightly over $20,000, including book sales and other author-related activities. The onset of Generative AI, they argue, poses a severe risk of decimating the author profession.

In their filed complaint, the plaintiffs draw attention to the fact that their books were downloaded from pirated eBook repositories and integrated into GPT 3.5 and GPT 4. These versions of GPT power ChatGPT and countless applications and enterprise uses. OpenAI allegedly expects to earn billions from these applications, which critics argue are shaped significantly by the accessed “professionally authored, edited, and published books.”

OpenAI’s AI-generated books have been accused of mimicking the work of human authors, as evidenced by the recent attempt to generate volumes 6 and 7 of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” AI-generated books posted on Amazon, attempting to pass themselves off as human-generated, have also raised serious legal concerns.

The lawsuit underscores alleged harm caused to the fiction market, equating OpenAI’s unauthorized use of authors’ works to grand-scale identity theft. Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger argued,

“Great books are generally written by those who spend their careers, and indeed, their lives, learning and perfecting their crafts. To preserve our literature, authors must have the ability to control if and how their works are used by generative AI.”

The current class-action suit focuses primarily on fiction writers as they form a well-defined and cohesive group whose works are now being widely mimicked with generative AI tools. Nonetheless, the Authors Guild acknowledges the damage to nonfiction markets and plans to address them in due course.

Jonathan Franzen, a class representative, stated,

“Generative AI is a vast new field for Silicon Valley’s longstanding exploitation of content providers. Authors should have the right to decide when their works are used to ‘train’ AI. If they choose to opt in, they should be appropriately compensated.”

The Author’s Guild believes the economic implications of this issue could potentially compromise all cultural production. The fear of a future dominated by derivative artistic output is deeply concerning. This lawsuit marks one of the many attempts to avert such an outcome.

The full complaint can be read here.

Posted In: AI, Legal