OpenAI Accuses New York Times of Hacking AI Models

Key Takeaways:

Serious allegations: OpenAI, a leading AI research organisation, has levelled accusations against The New York Times, one of the world’s most prominent newspapers, alleging that the publication engaged in unauthorised access to OpenAI’s proprietary AI models.

Violation of trust: The accusations suggest a breach of trust and ethical boundaries within the AI research and journalism communities. OpenAI’s models represent significant investments of time, resources, and intellectual property, and any unauthorised access or use constitutes a severe violation.

Potential legal ramifications: The allegations could lead to legal actions and further investigation. Depending on the findings, consequences may include legal penalties, reputational damage for the involved parties, and heightened scrutiny regarding data security and intellectual property protection within the AI research ecosystem.

In a surprising turn of events, OpenAI, a renowned artificial intelligence research organisation, has filed a copyright lawsuit against The New York Times, alleging unauthorised access and manipulation of its AI models. 


The lawsuit, filed in a California district court, marks a significant escalation in the ongoing debate over intellectual property rights in the AI domain. On February 26 2024, OpenAI asked a federal judge to dismiss the Times’ copyright lawsuit against it and revealed that the Times caused the technology to reproduce its material via “deceptive prompts that violate OpenAI’s terms of use.” 

Avoiding accusations of the newspaper violating anti-hacking laws, OpenAI did not identify the individual it claims the Times employed to manipulate its systems. OpenAI said, “The allegations in the Times’s complaint do not meet its famously rigorous journalistic standards. The truth, which will come out in this case, is that the Times paid someone to hack OpenAI’s products.” 

The Allegations

OpenAI contends that The New York Times accessed its proprietary AI models without consent and used them to generate content for its articles. The crux of the accusation revolves around the Times’ purported infringement of OpenAI’s copyright-protected algorithms and datasets. According to OpenAI, the Times engaged in what it terms as “hacking” of its AI models, breaching digital security measures to gain unauthorised entry. This alleged intrusion, OpenAI claims, enabled the Times to exploit the functionality of these models for its commercial benefit, thereby violating OpenAI’s intellectual property rights.

The lawsuit points explicitly to instances where OpenAI’s cutting-edge language models, such as GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), were allegedly accessed and utilised by the Times without proper authorisation. These models, trained on vast amounts of data, can generate human-like text across various topics, making them valuable assets in content creation. The newspaper’s attorney, Ian Crosby, suggested that the claims of hacking by OpenAI are merely an effort to use OpenAI’s products to find evidence of the alleged theft and reproduction of The Times’s copyrighted work. 

In December 2023, The Times filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft, its leading financial supporter. According to the lawsuit, Times articles alleged the unauthorised use of millions to train chatbots that provided information to users. The lawsuit suggested its intention to defend the original journalism of the NYT and pulled from both the United States Constitution and the Copyright Act. The lawsuit revealed Microsoft’s Bing AI and alleged that it created verbatim excerpts from its content. Other groups, including authors, visual artists, and music publishers, have filed lawsuits similar to The Times’, suing tech firms for supposedly misusing their content in AI training. 

The Implications

The legal clash between OpenAI and The New York Times underscores the complexities surrounding the ownership and use of AI technologies. As AI permeates various sectors, questions about intellectual property rights, fair use, and ethical considerations have become increasingly prominent. One key implication of this lawsuit is the potential precedent it could set for regulating AI usage and access. Should OpenAI prevail in court, it may establish a framework for safeguarding AI algorithms and datasets from unauthorised exploitation, thereby bolstering intellectual property protection in the AI domain.

The case also raises broader questions about the responsibilities of organisations utilising AI technologies. As AI becomes more pervasive in content generation and other applications, ensuring ethical and legal compliance in its usage becomes paramount. The lawsuit serves as a reminder of the need for clear guidelines and standards governing the ethical deployment of AI systems. Previously, OpenAI asserted that training advanced AI models without utilising copyrighted works is impossible. In a filing to the United Kingdom House of Lords, OpenAI highlighted that AI models would only be feasible by incorporating copyrighted materials as they cover a wide range of human expressions and training.

The Future of AI and Copyright

Regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, it is likely to have far-reaching implications for the future of AI development and copyright law. The case highlights the growing tension between innovation and regulation in AI as stakeholders grapple with the challenges of rapidly advancing technology. Tech firms suggested that their AI systems use copyrighted material fairly and emphasised that such lawsuits threaten the growth of the multi-trillion-dollar industry. 

AI training is yet to be considered a fair use in copyright law by the courts. Resolving this legal dispute could shape the trajectory of AI research and development, influencing how organisations approach protecting their AI assets. It may also prompt policymakers to revisit existing copyright laws and consider amendments to better address the unique characteristics of AI-generated content.

The copyright lawsuit filed by OpenAI against The New York Times marks a significant moment in the evolution of AI and intellectual property rights. As the case unfolds, it will undoubtedly spark further debate and reflection on AI innovation’s ethical, legal, and regulatory dimensions.

Fhumulani Lukoto Cryptocurrency Journalist

Fhumulani Lukoto holds a Bachelors Degree in Journalism enabling her to become the writer she is today. Her passion for cryptocurrency and bitcoin started in 2021 when she began producing content in the space. A naturally inquisitive person, she dove head first into all things crypto to gain the huge wealth of knowledge she has today. Based out of Gauteng, South Africa, Fhumulani is a core member of the content team at Coin Insider.

View all posts by Fhumulani Lukoto >

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