Read AI about it... OpenAI does deal with News Corp

Pact made with WSJ, New York Post, Sunday Times, Australian publisher as lawsuit bullets ping around the industry

OpenAI and News Corp on Wednesday announced a partnership that will bring the publisher's output to the super-lab's models, marking yet another in a series of data content deals for the industry.

The tie-up means that "OpenAI has permission to display content from News Corp mastheads in response to user questions and to enhance its products." What that possibly means: The models can be trained on News Corp articles, answer queries using that info, and cite those sources.

OpenAI hasn't always sought permission. For example, it was recently accused of failing to respect celebrity Scarlett Johansson's refusal to license her voice to the biz for speech synthesis. OpenAI said in response it didn't do anything wrong, and insisted again on Wednesday it did not use the movie star's voice and had hired a voice actress instead.

OpenAI has not fully disclosed the data used to train its latest models, either.

But given the growing number of AI-related lawsuits, asking permission rather than seeking forgiveness looks like the wiser option. Non-consensual use of copyrighted content for AI training, arguably rampant throughout the machine learning world lately, isn't likely to go unnoticed anymore.

Other recent agreements reached by OpenAI include content access arrangements with Reddit and Stack Overflow. And rival Google struck a similar deal with Reddit for its user-generated comments.

The latest partnership – rumored to land News Corp $250 million over the next five years – will give OpenAI access to current and past content from various publications today owned by the corporation Rupert Murdoch founded, including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, Investor’s Business Daily, FN, and the New York Post; The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun; The Australian,, The Courier Mail, The Advertiser, and Herald Sun; and others. It doesn't cover content from News Corp's other businesses.

The two companies in separate but similar press releases said the ultimate goal of the pact is to help people "make informed choices based on reliable information and news sources."

AI models often come with a caution that they can't be relied upon, because they may "hallucinate" – make things up. The OpenAI's ChatGPT web page, for example, contains the disclaimer, "ChatGPT can make mistakes. Check important info."

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, characterized the deal as "a proud moment for journalism and technology."

"Together, we are setting the foundation for a future where AI deeply respects, enhances, and upholds the standards of world-class journalism," he said.

Neither OpenAI nor News Corp made it clear how their data deal will uphold the standards of world-class journalism, which tends to favor disclosure of information rather than withholding it through the imposition of a non-disclosure, non-disparagement agreement. OpenAI has since denied that it threatened staff with loss of equity if they broke an unusually restrictive NDA, and Sam Altman said he knew nothing of such threats, although it seems plenty of management did.

The impact of AI on journalism is a complex topic, covered in depth in a recent report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

The report notes, "The growing use of AI in news work tilts the balance of power toward technology companies, raising concerns about 'rent' extraction and potential threats to publishers’ autonomy business models, particularly those reliant on search-driven traffic."

Ron Bodkin, co-founder and CEO of Theoriq, a decentralized AI firm, told The Register that a compensation model is necessary for those making the material that sustains AI.

It's essential that content creators and journalists are fairly compensated for their work

"We believe it's essential that content creators and journalists are fairly compensated for their work, especially as AI agents and chatbots increasingly consume and summarize content," he said. "This compensation is critical to maintaining high-quality journalism and supporting the creative industry."

Bodkin however said that current trends favor the largest tech companies through exclusive content access deals.

"This dynamic often results in only the largest publishers receiving funds for their content, further consolidating power and resources," he explained. "The worst case is licensing deals are exclusive, leading to walled gardens that restrict access to a monopolist."

Bodkin argues that AI access to data needs to be democratized using distributed technologies, such as micropayments on a blockchain.

"This approach would ensure that journalists and other data providers are fairly compensated while also allowing startups and nonprofit researchers equitable access to data," he said. "Such a system would be based on the value realized from the data, promoting a more inclusive and competitive environment in AI development."

The Register has asked OpenAI and News Corp to confirm whether "enhance its products" should be interpreted to mean that OpenAI intends to use News Corp material to train its models. We also asked whether News Corp journalists will be compensated for having their work used thus.

We've not heard back. ®

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