New York Times sues OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement

Lawsuit claims ‘unlawful use’ of paper’s copyrighted material to create artificial intelligence products ‘threatens’ its ‘ability to provide that service’

The New York Times has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft in an escalation of a fight over intellectual content used to train generative artificial intelligence (AI) and large-language model systems.

The lawsuit, filed in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, claims that while the companies copied information from many sources to build their systems, they give New York Times content “particular emphasis” and “seek to freeride on the Times’s massive investment in its journalism by using it to build substitutive products without permission or payment”.

The “unlawful use” of the paper’s “copyrighted news articles, in-depth investigations, opinion pieces, reviews, how-to guides, and more” to create AI products “threatens The Times’s ability to provide that service”, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit contains an appeal to the “vital” importance of the Times’s independent journalism to democracy, arguing that it is “increasingly rare and valuable”.


The claim comes weeks after OpenAI was roiled by internal conflict centred on the direction of the fast-growing company and whether to maintain its adherence to safety-first principles on which it was founded or to follow a less-constrained strategy for growth.

But that turmoil did not address an intensifying battle between the providers of information used to train AI systems and the operators of the technology. This year, a series of lawsuits, including by leading authors and the photo archive Getty, have been filed against AI firms claiming unauthorised use of copyrighted materials.

The Times reported that the lawsuit came to fruition after an apparent breakdown in negotiations over the companies’ use of Times material. In the filing, the Times said it had approached the tech firms about the use of its intellectual property to explore “an amicable resolution”, including commercial agreements and “guardrails” around AI products – but the discussions had stalled.

The lawsuit also broaches the issue of AI “hallucinations”, typically false information that can be wrongly attributed to a source, that it said potentially damages the Times’s brand. It identified material on Microsoft’s Bing Chat that it claims was misidentified as Times content, including results for “the 15 most heart-healthy foods”. Twelve of those had not been mentioned in the Times story, the lawsuit claims.

The Times lawsuit does not contain a monetary claim, but says that OpenAI, valued at $80 billion, and its partner Microsoft, valued at $2.8 trillion, should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages”.

The suit also called on the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from the Times.

Earlier this month, OpenAI announced a partnership with the German publishing giant Axel Springer to “enrich users’ experience with ChatGPT by adding recent and authoritative content on a wide variety of topics, and explicitly values the publisher’s role in contributing to OpenAI’s products”.

“With this partnership, ChatGPT users around the world will receive summaries of selected global news content from Axel Springer’s media brands,” Open AI said in a press release, adding that information on the system would “include attribution and links to the full articles for transparency and further information”.

“We want to explore the opportunities of AI empowered journalism – to bring quality, societal relevance and the business model of journalism to the next level,” said Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Axel Springer.

Representatives of OpenAI and Microsoft did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. – Guardian