The New York Times and OpenAI: A Predicted Outcome

The original “Mothra vs. Godzilla” was released in 1964, so even those who watched it then cannot remember it. Therefore, let me summarize. Mothra — a moth deity, so fertile and nurturing that her brown speckled-body could be a Goop caftan — lays a massive larvae-filled egg off the coast of Japan. Godzilla — cold-blooded stomper of things — wants to smash the egg. Thus, an enormous conflict ensues between the forces of creation and destruction.

This is essentially the story the New York Times tells in its lawsuit against OpenAI. The Times (Mothra) is a life force of liberal democracy battling a Big Tech destroyer. OpenAI (Godzilla) has already plundered the Times by employing its articles to train ChatGPT without authorization. The inclusion of ChatGPT results that replicate the New York Times’s stories almost word-for-word definitely makes OpenAI appear very stompy.

OpenAI wholly denies this premise. It claims that it was recently negotiation rights fees with the Times! In a blog post written in the tone of a man unsure why his date left the restaurant, the company says, “Our discussions with the New York Times had appeared to be progressing constructively. … We regard the New York Times’ lawsuit to be without merit. Still, we are hopeful for a constructive partnership with the New York Times and respect its long history.”

There exist several instances at the intersection of copyright and generative AI — Sarah Silverman vs. Meta, Getty Images vs. Stability AI — but this is the only one that could tempt Don King out of retirement. These are culturally dominant apex corporations, with well-earned reputations for innovation and arrogance. Yet it’s also an underdog story. The Times is worth about $8 billion. OpenAI checks in at about $100 billion, while its largest stakeholder, Microsoft, is worth 16 Jeff Bezoses.

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