Authors sue OpenAI and Meta for copyright infringement

10 Jul 2023

Sarah Silverman is one of the authors suing OpenAI and Meta. Image: Waterkeeper Alliance Inc (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A number of authors have filed suits against OpenAI and Meta, due to claims that their AI models used their works as training material through the use of ‘shadow libraries’.

A group of authors have filed joint lawsuits against OpenAI and Meta with allegations that their AI products used copyrighted materials without permission.

One of the plaintiffs in these claims is comedian and author Sarah Silverman, with other authors involved including Christopher Golden and Richard Kadrey. The two suits are targeting OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Meta’s LLaMA.

These AI systems run on large language models, which are trained on massive volumes of text in order to achieve tasks, such as generating text, responding to questions and creating different types of content.

The lawsuits claim the large language models developed by these companies were trained on illegal “shadow libraries”, websites that contain pirated versions of the authors’ books. Examples of these sites include Library Genesis, Z-Library, Sci-Hub and Bibliotik.

“These shadow libraries have long been of interest to the AI-training community because of the large quantity of copyrighted material they host,” the plaintiffs said in legal documents. “For that reason, these shadow libraries are also flagrantly illegal.”

Lawyers Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick are representing the authors in these cases. On their website LLM litigation, the laywers claim they have are representing two other authors – Paul Trem­blay and Mona Awad – in the other case against ChatGPT and the large language models it operates on.

“Since the release of OpenAI’s Chat­GPT sys­tem in March 2023, we’ve been hear­ing from writ­ers, authors and pub­lish­ers who are con­cerned about its uncanny abil­ity to gen­er­ate text sim­i­lar to that found in copy­righted tex­tual mate­ri­als, includ­ing thou­sands of books,” the website says.

“It’s a great plea­sure to stand up on behalf of authors and con­tinue the vital con­ver­sa­tion about how AI will coex­ist with human cul­ture and cre­ativ­ity.”

Last month, it was revealed that OpenAI is facing a major class-action lawsuit from a US law firm for allegedly scraping the internet to train ChatGPT, potentially violating the rights of millions.

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Sarah Silverman in Los Angeles in 2018. Image: Waterkeeper Alliance Inc via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic