If 2023 was the year that ChatGPT ushered in an Artificial Intelligence revolution for the masses, then this year we will see creators and copyright owners at odds. I see the situation as like the skirmish between the Napster music file sharing service and music labels from two decades ago.
Late last week, The New York Times filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement. The NYT claims that massive amounts of its news stories were used by OpenAI to train the Large Language models used to power ChatGPT. Microsoft is an investor in OpenAI and uses ChatGPT in some of its products.
Three of my books - The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Fanocracy, and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead are part of the Books3 database which was used to train generative Artificial Intelligence systems by Meta, Bloomberg, and others. My three books, as well as 183,000 books from other authors were used without permission, without compensation, or without citation credit.
I’ve clearly seen my book content appear in results from ChatGPT.
At the same time, for more than twenty years I’ve pioneered the idea of using content as a form of marketing. I’ve advocated putting content out there for free to educate and inform potential customers, the media, investors, and others. I’ve published nearly 2,000 blog posts like this one, all free. I’ve got a dozens of videos of my talks available for anyone to watch. I’ve published a bunch of free eBooks and hundreds of LinkedIn articles.
I’m totally cool with Generative AI tools training on all content that I put out there for free.
But I do not approve of my paid content, including my books, being used without compensation.
The best outcome is for publishers and tech companies to come to an agreement for how to compensate creators as well as cite their work in the same way that music labels worked with Apple, Spotify, and others to legally offer paid digital music. I’d also like to see citation credit in the way that Wikipedia sources original content.
My guess is that the NYT lawsuit is a salvo to bring the issues that couldn't be resolved behind closed doors out into the public.
That opens debate.
However, publishers like the NYT will need to be careful. AI content engines are already disrupting content. You can't shut that down like the music companies tried to with Napster. It will fail. Music suffered for years until Spotify and others started to return millions to musicians and labels.
My friend Mitch Jackson is a lawyer, a content creator, and writes about technology. He says: “The lawsuit could force a reckoning on how AI and journalism coexist. Are we ready for a world where AI can mimic the style and substance of established journalism? And at what point does homage become theft?”
The AI revolution is here. It’s not going away. I suspect this case or one like it will go all the way to the Supreme Court.