Chicago Tribune Owner Sues OpenAI, Microsoft for Training AI Without Permission

The Alden Global Capital lawsuit frames its damages claim as due compensation for lost licensing fees and subscriber revenue

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (R) greets OpenAI CEO Sam Altman during the OpenAI DevDay event on Nov. 6, 2023, in San Francisco. (Getty Images)

Eight newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital filed a lawsuit Tuesday against OpenAI and Microsoft, accusing the companies of copyright violations by using articles to train AI.

The owners of the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and others join the battlefield with the New York Times, which in a separate lawsuit also claims the tech giants used millions of copyrighted articles to train generative AI – and did so without permission.

The federal complaint filed in the U.S. Southern District of New York includes eight Alden publications: The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun Sentinel of Florida, The San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post, The Orange County Register and The St. Paul Pioneer Press. All are owned by MediaNews Group or Tribune Publishing which, under the umbrella of Alden, representing the nation’s second-largest newspaper publisher.

“We’ve spent billions of dollars gathering information and reporting news at our publications, and we can’t allow OpenAI and Microsoft to expand the Big Tech playbook of stealing our work to build their own businesses at our expense,” executive editor for MediaNews Group and Tribune Publishing Frank Pine said in a statement. “They don’t want to pay for the content without which they would have no product at all. That’s not fair use, and it’s not fair. It needs to stop.”

“The misappropriation of news content by OpenAI and Microsoft undermines the business model for news,” Pine continued. “These companies are building AI products clearly intended to supplant news publishers by repurposing purloined content and delivering it to their users.”

Pine added, “Even worse, when they’re not delivering the actual verbatim reporting of our hard-working journalists, they misattribute bogus information to our news publications, damaging our credibility.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, demands a jury trial and frames potential damages as compensation owed for content licensing and lost revenue from ads and subscriptions. The complaint also said that the tech companies’ chatbots often showed full text from articles that are behind paywalls, and did not link back to the original content.

“Irresponsible theft of our news content not only endangers our publications, but it also puts democracy at risk by weakening the Fourth Estate in general. It siphons off publishers’ revenue, saps support for professional news organizations and damages the credibility of real journalists by attributing false information to us,” Pine concluded.

Publishers have come to a crossroads with AI training, having to choose either litigation or direct licensing. The New York Times filed an ambitious lawsuit in December against Microsoft and OpenAI, accusing the tech giants of copyright infringement.

The suit argues that the generative A.I. tools that Microsoft and OpenAI have created rely on large language models, or LLM, “that were built by copying and using millions of The Times’s copyrighted news articles, in-depth investigations, opinion pieces, reviews, how-to guides and more.”

The Times’ lawsuit marks the first blockbuster case from news publishers over generative AI capabilities and how chatbots were trained, as the technology begins to embed itself in the media industry.

However, other news organizations have gone in a different direction, collaborating with these tech companies. 

News Corp., which was initially hesitant to partner with AI companies, has changed its tune regarding AI’s role in the industry, with CEO Robert Thomson saying in February that the company intends to be a “core content provider for generative AI companies who need the highest quality timely content to ensure the relevance of their products.”

“Courtship is preferable to courtrooms,” Thomson added. “We are wooing, not suing.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.