AI Companies Sued for Breach of Copyright


This article is written in conjunction with the IE Law Society.

By Klaudia Kupidura

The latest developments in Generative AI have changed our habits, learning mechanisms, and approach to life. AI provides us with solutions and answers to specific questions, making the process of acquiring new information efficient. However, the new developments in technology also bring negative impacts. Increasing numbers of individuals are raising concerns about the safe and ethical use of GenAI, citing alleged breaches of copyright regulations. 

The Story of Copyright and AI

Copyright is a legal mechanism to protect human creativity, taking the work created by human beings as its foundation. The lawsuits against OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, are related to the training process for their various AI programs. The GenAI creates its answers based on a vast number of articles, research papers, and books, which are protected by law through copyright regulation. The question arises whether the mechanism is entitled to use this information without the permission of the data creators and without citing the sources used.

The AI uses content that is created by human beings, such as already existing artworks and written articles, and combines it with the content that is generated by itself. It becomes a collage of already existing work mixed with AI output based on the patterns acquired from those works. The Copyright Office proposes that AI-generated artwork or written pieces could receive copyright protection based on the evaluation of human factors used. In other words, whether a piece would be considered for obtaining copyright protection will depend on the nature of human involvement in the process. This creates a question then, of who will own the copyright. The commentators from the Copyright Office argue that the user of the AI should then become the author and the owner of the work. 

Suing the Biggest AI Company

The New York Times is the first media outlet that has brought lawsuits against Microsoft and OpenAI. This lawsuit marks the emergence of legal challenges related to defining authorship, as the newspaper raised concerns about the unauthorized use of the journalists’ work to create artificial intelligence products. They argued that the GenAI relies on “large-language models that were built by copying and using millions of The Times’s copyrighted news articles, in-depth investigations, opinion pieces, reviews, how-to guides, and more,” which is in breach of the exclusive rights to the work. In the comment on Intellectual Property Protection, the creators of Open AI confirm that the training programs are based on “large, publicly available datasets that include copyrighted works.” Another example of such litigation is the lawsuit filed by novelists Mona Awad and Paul Tremblay before the Federal Court of San Francisco for an alleged infringement of copyright. They claimed that their work was unlawfully used as a dataset for the AI language models training. The accused AI companies denied the allegations. 

Legal professionals are responsible for developing solutions to manage the rapidly evolving field of AI, which poses serious challenges to the current system of copyright and intellectual property rights. As summarized by Chat GPT itself, “the challenges brought by OpenAI and copyright regulation lie in determining ownership and liability for creative works generated by AI,” however, the ownership of those words cannot be accredited to anyone. 

Featured image courtesy of The Nordic Yearbook of Law and Informatics 2020–2021 (cover)

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