INFRINGEMENT OF BOOK AUTHORS’ COPYRIGHTS
ChatGPT is a software product created, maintained, and sold by OpenAI, Inc., OpenAI, L.P., and OpenAI OpCo, L.L.C. (collectively OpenAI). ChatGPT is powered by two AI software programs called GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, also known as large language models. Rather than being programmed in the traditional way, a large language model is “trained” by copying massive amounts of text and extracting expressive information from it. This body of text is called “the training dataset.” Once a large language model has copied and ingested the text in its training dataset, it is able to emit convincingly naturalistic text outputs in response to user prompts.
A large language model’s output is therefore entirely and uniquely reliant on the material in its training dataset. Every time it assembles a text output, the model relies on the information it extracted from its training dataset.
Book authors have copyrights in their publications. They did not consent to the use of their copyrighted books as training material for GPT-3.5 and GPT-4. Nonetheless, their copyrighted materials were ingested and used to train these large language models. Indeed, when ChatGPT is prompted, it generates summaries of plaintiffs’ copyrighted works—something only possible if GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 were trained on plaintiffs’ copyrighted works. OpenAI, by usage of these large language models, benefits commercially and profits richly from the use of these copyrighted materials. If this alleged behavior is allowed to continue, these models will eventually replace the authors whose stolen works power these AI products with whom they are competing.
On June 28, 2023, the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, LLP and co-counsel Matthew Butterick filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a class of plaintiffs seeking compensation for damages caused by defendant OpenAI and an injunction to prevent future harms. The lawsuit alleges direct and vicarious copyright infringement related to forgeries, violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, negligence, unjust enrichment, and various violations of California’s unfair competition laws.
The lawsuit seeks not only to obtain justice for the alleged wrongful conduct but also to prevent future harm and ensure that these products are subject to the same legal standards as any other new technology that involves the use of massive amounts of intellectual property.
“As artificial intelligence continues to drastically alter every aspect of the modern world, it’s critical that we recognize and protect the rights of authors such as these against unlawful theft and fraud,” said firm founder Joseph Saveri. “GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 are not just an infringement of authors’ rights; whether they aim to or not, models such as this will eliminate “author” as a viable career path. This case represents a larger fight for preserving ownership rights for all artists and other creators.”
“AI needs to be fair and ethical for everyone,” said lawyer and published author Matthew Butterick. “OpenAI is appropriating the work of thousands of authors without consent, credit, or compensation. It’s an honor to stand up on behalf of fellow book authors and continue the vital conversation about how AI will coexist with human culture and creativity.”