On Tuesday, a group of 17 authors filed a federal class action lawsuit against OpenAI, the company behind the artificial intelligence language model ChatGPT, citing massive copyright infringement. The group of plaintiffs, which includes Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, and David Baldacci, allege that OpenAI is responsible for “systematic theft on a mass scale” after using their work to train the company’s AI program without permission.
The class action was filed jointly by the group of writers and the Authors Guild in the Southern District Court of New York on the grounds that OpenAI illegally copied their respective works in order to train ChatGPT’s AI. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the large language model (LLM) of the AI program “threatens the livelihood of the very authors…on whose works [ChatGPT was] ‘trained’ without the authors’ consent.” The suit further claims that the program is displacing human authors by churning out “low-quality ebooks” based on pirated online copies of their works.
“It is imperative that we stop this theft in its tracks or we will destroy our incredible literary culture, which feeds many other creative industries in the US,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger. “Great books are generally written by those who spend their careers and, indeed, their lives, learning and perfecting their crafts. To preserve our literature, authors must have the ability to control if and how their works are used by generative AI.”
The lawsuit cites existing ChatGPT searches for each of the authors named in the class action, particularly Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. Martin, who notably has not published an installment in his Song of Ice and Fire series since 2011, described an effort by programmer Liam Swayne to produce his own version of the two upcoming books and post the results online. Swayne has also generated a prequel to the series and published altered versions of the existing books.
“ChatGPT could not have generated the results described above if OpenAI’s LLMs had not ingested and been ‘trained’ on Martin’s infringed works,” the complaint alleges.
Similar claims are made regarding to work of other authors, as well as “tens of thousands” not named in the suit. The plaintiffs are seeking damages up to $150,000 per infringed work. The authors listed in the class action filing include Christina Baker Kline, David Baldacci, Douglas Preston, Elin Hilderbrand, George Saunders, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Bly, Maya Shanbhag Lang, Michael Connelly, Rachel Vail, Roxana Robinson, Scott Turow, Sylvia Day, and Victor LaValle.
In response to similar lawsuits filed since the launch of ChatGPT, OpenAI has maintained that training the AI on information scraped from the internet falls under fair use copyright law in the United States, but it has committed to resecting creator rights and “having productive conversations with many creators around the world, including the Authors Guild.”