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Billionaire Barry Diller says the media should ‘absolutely’ sue AI makers over ingesting text from articles

A photo of IAC chairman Barry Diller speaking at the Semafor Media Summit.IAC chairman Barry Diller spoke at the Semafor Media Summit on Monday, where he said media publishers should “absolutely institute litigation” to ensure payment for any use of their work by AI.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Semafor.

  • Barry Diller warned publishers to prepare to fight in order to get paid for AI’s use of their work.
  • He said they should “absolutely institute litigation” over how AI uses published content.
  • Diller made the comments at the Semafor Media Summit in New York.

Media mogul Barry Diller blared alarms over the popularity of generative AI technology like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, warning publishers that they should sue to prevent such tools from cannibalizing their content.

The chairman of IAC, the media giant that owns the publisher Dotdash Meredith, told Semafor cofounder Ben Smith at the outlet’s media summit on Monday that the emergence of generative AI tools for mass use evokes the dawn of the internet in the 1990s.   

“The amount of destruction that took place at the beginning when it was declared a free medium was enormous,” Diller told Smith, according to a recording of the event.  

“And I think that today is potentially analogous to that, if publishers do not say, ‘You cannot scrape our content, you cannot take it, you cannot take it transformatively — to get to the key word in ‘fair use’ — but you cannot take it and use it in real time to actually cannibalize everything,” he said.  

Diller was referencing the legal concept of fair use, where copyrighted material can sometimes be used without permission in certain cases, like in making parodies.  

He also put out a sharp call to action, urging the media and publishing companies to “get immediately active and absolutely institute litigation,” in order to make sure they would get paid for the the use of their work.

“Companies can absolutely sue under copyright law,” he said. 

Representatives for IAC did not share additional comments. Representatives for OpenAI did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment on Tuesday. 

Federal copyright law allows creators with registered copyrighted works to bring legal claims in court, pursuing damages that can range from a few hundred dollars to a maximum of $150,000 for a violation, the US Copyright Office states on its website

Courts may issue penalties in the upper range of that spectrum if they find the infringement to be “willful,” or intentional, according to the law.  

As the use of AI technology evolves, courts will consider how copyright laws might apply, said Frank Gerratana, a partner at the law firm Mintz who advises clients on intellectual property issues. 

“The way generative AI works is that these systems collect content from the Internet, and run it through a model that allows it to generate new content,” Gerratana told Insider, speaking generally on copyright issues pertaining to AI tools and not on Diller’s remarks.

“It’s not clear right now to what extent that has copyright implications,” Gerratana said. “It’s possible we’ll see court decisions that apply copyright law in ways that we wouldn’t have expected, because this technology is new, the circumstances are new, and the facts are new.”

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