Alden Newspapers Allege OpenAI, Microsoft Rip Off IP

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Eight regional newspapers owned by private equity giant Alden Global Capital sued OpenAI and Microsoft in New York federal court Tuesday, accusing the tech companies of ripping off the newspapers' copyrights and misappropriating news articles to train AI chatbots that also allegedly spread fake news falsely attributed to the newspapers.

In a 98-page complaint, the newspapers allege that Seattle-based Microsoft Corp. and the Microsoft-backed AI nonprofit OpenAI Inc. have used their copyrighted newspaper publications to train their popular generative artificial intelligence products, including ChatGPT and Copilot — formerly known as Bing Chat — without the newspapers' consent and without regard to the journalists' efforts or legal rights.

The lawsuit was filed by regional daily newspapers in the Alden portfolio, including the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post, the Orange County Register and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"This lawsuit is about how Microsoft and OpenAI are not entitled to use copyrighted newspaper content to build their new trillion-dollar enterprises, without paying for that content," the suit said.

The complaint said that newspaper publishers spend billions of dollars annually to send journalists to cover important events in their local communities, and the defendants' AI tools are "taking the publishers' work with impunity" and using their journalism to create GenAI products that undermine the publishers' core businesses by republishing their paywalled content verbatim for free.

"As if plagiarizing the publishers' work were not enough, defendants' products are often subject to 'hallucinations' where those products malign the publishers' credibility by falsely attributing inaccurate reporting to the publishers' newspapers," the suit said. "Beyond just profiting from the theft of the publishers' content, defendants are actively tarnishing the newspapers' reputations and spreading dangerous disinformation."

According to the suit, Microsoft and OpenAI "bizarrely claim" that they're entitled to copy and use newspaper content "day in and day out" to train their AI tools without compensating the publishers or obtaining consent or a license. The suit noted that the language learning models, or LLMs, used to train AI products specifically prioritized scraping content from newspapers and other reliable publications.

The complaint included multiple examples in which OpenAI's ChatGPT was given a prompt and the AI tool produced a response that quoted verbatim from published news articles. It also included examples of Copilot producing nearly entire news articles without links to the original news sources.

The suit additionally included examples in which the AI products allegedly hallucinated and produced false responses, including an instance in which it falsely claimed that the newspapers reported there was evidence to support the erroneous belief that injecting disinfectants could cure COVID-19.

An AI model allegedly falsely stated that the San Jose Mercury News endorsed the practice of injecting disinfectant to cure COVID-19 and that the Chicago Tribune recommended the Boppy Original Newborn Lounger — a product linked to infant deaths and recalled in 2021. It also falsely claimed The Denver Post reported on evidence showing smoking cures asthma

"These 'hallucinations' mislead users as to the source of the information they are obtaining, leading them to incorrectly believe that the information provided has been vetted and published by the publishers," the complaint said.

The lawsuit noted that OpenAI's founder, Sam Altman, conceded in testimony to the House of Lords in the U.K. in December that OpenAI could not make commercially viable AI products without using copyrighted material.

The seven-count complaint asserted multiple claims of copyright infringement, trademark dilution, injury to business reputation, unfair competition by misappropriation and violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The suit seeks statutory and compensatory damages, restitution and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and an order destroying all GPT or other LLM models and training sets that incorporate the publishers' works.

MediaNews Group and Tribune Publishing's executive editor, Frank Pine, said in a statement Tuesday that the publications have spent billions of dollars gathering information and reporting the news, and can't allow OpenAI and Microsoft to "expand the Big Tech playbook of stealing our work to build their own businesses at our expense."

"That's not fair use, and it's not fair," Pine said. "It needs to stop."

Pine said OpenAI and Microsoft's misappropriation of news content undermines the business model for news, and the defendants are building AI products clearly intended to supplant news publishers by "repurposing purloined content and delivering it to their users," while misattributing bogus information to the newspapers, damaging the credibility of the publications.

"We employ professional journalists who adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness," he said. "They are real people who go out into the world to conduct firsthand interviews and engage in actual investigations to produce our journalism. Their work is vetted and checked by professional editors."

Steven Lieberman of Rothwell Figg Ernst & Manbeck PC, counsel for the newspapers, added that this case will be a test of whether OpenAI and Microsoft can build their very profitable businesses by taking copyrighted content without the consent of his clients.

OpenAI said in a statement the company takes "great care in our products and design process to support news organizations."

"While we were not previously aware of Alden Global Capital's concerns, we are actively engaged in constructive partnerships and conversations with many news organizations around the world to explore opportunities, discuss any concerns, and provide solutions," the statement said. "Along with our news partners, we see immense potential for AI tools like ChatGPT to deepen publishers' relationships with readers and enhance the news experience."

Representatives for Microsoft declined to comment Tuesday.

This month, ChatGPT had approximately 180.5 million users, with a portion of those users paying a monthly subscription fee, and as of February, OpenAI was on pace to generate more than $4 billion in revenue in 2025, representing more than $333 million in revenue per month, according to the complaint.

The complaint is the latest in a wave of copyright lawsuits launched against OpenAI and other generative AI companies in recent years in California and New York. The New York Times and The Intercept have each sued OpenAI and Microsoft recently asserting similar IP claims, and the parties are currently duking it out at the pleading stage.

The newspapers are represented by Steven Lieberman, Jennifer B. Maisel, Robert Parker, Jenny L. Colgate, Kristen J. Logan, Bryan B. Thompson and Jeffrey A. Lindenbaum of Rothwell Figg Ernst & Manbeck PC.

Counsel information for the defendants wasn't immediately available Tuesday.

The case is Daily News LP et al. v. Microsoft Corp. et al., case number 1:24-cv-03285, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Editing by Robert Rudinger.

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