Surge in Non-Fiction Authors Suing OpenAI and Microsoft

Two prominent non-fiction authors have filed a lawsuit alleging OpenAI and Microsoft stole other writers’ copyrighted material without permission to train AI models like ChatGPT. Journalists Nicholas Basbanes and Nicholas Gage accuse the tech giants of “massive and deliberate theft” of literary works.

The writers argue they “self-fund” expensive research themselves with limited budgets. Yet OpenAI and Microsoft readily draw on “billions in capital” and simply “stole” protected content to fuel a billion-dollar AI industry. This alleged plagiarism seems a “deliberate strategy” aiming for higher profits versus exploring alternative options like profit-sharing, the complaint states.

Basbanes and Gage now seek court approval for a class action representing all writers whose creative work ended up in OpenAI training data. For each copyright violation, they demand up to $150,000 in damages plus an injunction to prevent recurrence. Basbanes focuses on book history while Gage previously wrote for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

This lawsuit joins a rising chorus of creative professionals alleging OpenAI scraped online content without appropriate rights. Groups including fiction authors George R.R. Martin and Jodi Picoult as well as The New York Times itself have all sued recently. Even the popular science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s estate may join the fray soon.

An OpenAI spokesperson previously contended the Times suit was unexpected since productive conversations were underway. But legal action continues mounting as more writers discover AI systems like ChatGPT imitating uniquely human creative work.

With multi-billion-dollar backing from investors like Microsoft, OpenAI operates from a position of immense resources relative to individual writers. The question now falls to the courts to determine if the startup went too far in scraping the internet for AI training data without considering copyright law. But OpenAI maintains its systems create original content, not plagiarize.