News Corp in 'advanced' talks with AI firms on content licensing deals, CEO says

SCIENCE & TECH: News Corp in ‘advanced’ talks with AI firms on content licensing deals, CEO says

News Corp — the media giant that owns The Post and the Wall Street Journal — is in “advanced” talks with major artificial intelligence firms to license the use of its news content, its top executive said.

CEO Robert Thomson — a vocal critic of AI firms that have effectively stolen content from news organizations to train chatbots that produce “rubbish” — said “crucial negotiations are at an advanced stage” as prominent media firms seek fair compensation for their copyrighted works.

Thomson said News Corp believes “courtship is preferable to courtrooms” to solve the hotly debated issue.

That’s in contrast to actions taken by firms such as the New York Times, which filed a sweeping federal copyright infringement lawsuit against OpenAI in December.

“We are wooing, not suing,” Thomson said during a Wednesday earnings call. “But let’s be clear: in my view, those who are repurposing our content without approval are stealing, they are undermining creativity. Counterfeiting is not creating, and the AI world is replete with content counterfeiters.”

When asked about the state of negotiations later in the earnings call, Thomson declined to comment on specifics — but reiterated that the talks were at “an advanced stage and we are dealing with willing partners.”

Robert Thomson said News Corp is “wooing, not suing” over artificial intelligence firms licensing the use of its news content. AFP via Getty Images

Microsoft-backed OpenAI, Google and others face tough scrutiny over their use of copyrighted material to train the models that power AI products.

While the Times’ lawsuit and other litigation plays out, OpenAI has reportedly engaged in negotiations with several prominent media companies — including CNN and Fox.

The ChatGPT creator has already announced deals with publishing giant Axel Springer and the Associated Press.

News Corp has “probably been the most vigorous in arguing for compensation from tech companies,” according to Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, who referenced the company’s previous battles with Google over digital ad revenue sharing.

“I think OpenAI is pursuing a strategy of risk aversion,” Benton added. “Their overarching argument is that training their models with copyrighted materials does not violate that copyright. But they also have plenty of money lying around.”

Thomson praised OpenAI boss Sam Altman for his handling of the situation — noting that he has “shown a clear understanding of the social importance of journalism.”

Thomson praised OpenAI boss Sam Altman for his handling of the issue. AP

Experts told The Post last month that copyright infringement lawsuits are a potential existential threat to OpenAI and other AI startups.

News Corp expects to be “a core content provider for Generative AI companies who need the highest quality, timely content to ensure the relevance of their products,” according to Thomson, who added that the company was playing a leading role in both the “intellectual debate” around AI’s impact on journalism as well as its business implications.

“Thoughtful people do understand that counterfeiting is not creating and crucially, in this exceedingly erratic era, we have deep facts, not deep fakes,” Thomson said.

News Corp is the parent company of The Post and the Wall Street Journal. LightRocket via Getty Images

Critics in the news industry have said the rise of AI has already begun to degrade the quality of online information.

Last month, The Post reported that Google News was placing AI-generated ripoffs alongside real news articles in its search results — including one that brazenly stole from a Post exclusive.

Thomson’s remarks echoed those of News Corp chairman emeritus Rupert Murdoch, who said last November that the firm was “absolutely focused” on “both the opportunities and the challenges” posed by advanced AI.

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