update deskJewish & Israeli Culture

Prominent Jewish books cited in copyright lawsuit against AI companies

Lawyers told “Publisher’s Weekly” they doubt that the lawsuits against artificial intelligence program creators will succeed.

Artificial intelligence (AI) on trial. Credit: TSViPhoto/Shutterstock.
Artificial intelligence (AI) on trial. Credit: TSViPhoto/Shutterstock.

Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which describes two Jewish cousins’ collaboration on comic books is at the center of a lawsuit filed on Sept. 8 against OpenAI, which makes the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT.

Chabon and his wife, the Israeli-American writer Ayelet Waldman, and other writers filed the class-action complaint before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. They demanded a jury trial and are acting “individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated,” per the complaint.

ChatGPT is only able to generate “in-depth analyses of the themes present in plaintiffs’ copyrighted works” if “the underlying GPT model was trained using plaintiffs’ works,” the suit alleges. “Plaintiffs and class members did not consent to the use of their copyrighted works as training material for GPT models or for use with ChatGPT.”

Further, the suit adds, the defendants “benefit commercially and profit handsomely from their unauthorized and illegal use of plaintiffs’ and class members’ copyrighted works.”

Exhibit A in the complaint is Kavalier & Clay, within which the complaint states that ChatGPT was able to identify six examples of trauma, “including how the main character’s ‘experiences in Europe, including witnessing the persecution of Jews and the loss of his family, haunt him throughout the story.’”

“When asked to write a paragraph in the style of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, ChatGPT generated a passage imitating plaintiff Chabon’s writing style, including references to the characters dealing with ‘the weight of the world at war,’” per the suit.

In July, Jewish comedian and writer Sarah Silverman was part of a different suit against an artificial intelligence platform.

In a separate suit, Chabon alleges that Meta, which owns Facebook, used his books, including Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, to train its AI programs.

Copyright lawyers have told Publishers Weekly that they doubt the lawsuits will succeed.

“I just don’t see how these cases have legs,” one said.

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