The ‘thieves and counterfeiters’ that Murdoch is looking to partner with

If ever there was a need for the legendary Murdoch muscle, it would be in the battle between the world’s media organisations and the generative AI giants, who are scraping editorial content to feed into their large language machines.

And for the most part, AI hasn’t been paying for it.

It is a beat-them-or-join-them moment for the media companies, whose business models will be undermined if AI can use their content unchecked.

So when News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson declared this week that the Murdoch media empire was in “advanced stage” discussions with AI firms, the industry is seriously invested in understanding what sort of deal has been struck.

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson prefers negotiation with the AI giants, rather than litigation.
News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson prefers negotiation with the AI giants, rather than litigation. Credit: Getty

That said, Thomson is clear that he is doing a deal with the devil – or, as he has described AI companies, with thieves and counterfeiters.

But in recognition of the unstoppable AI juggernaut, Thomson/Murdoch have taken the commercially pragmatic approach of asking AI companies to pay a toll for their use of News Corp’s content stream rather than roll the dice in a court.

Thomson calls it a preference for “courtship” over “courtrooms”.

“Let’s be clear, in my view those who repurpose without approval are stealing and are undermining the very act of creativity – counterfeiting is not creating, and the AI world is replete with content counterfeiters,” Thomson says.

“The corny, callow cliché is that AI companies are selling the picks and shovels during this seeming gold rush. Well, we are selectively reselling gold nuggets, and those crucial negotiations are at an advanced stage,” he said.

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(It would be a fascinating exercise to ask AI to mimic Robert Thomson’s florid prose.)

If News Corp cements a deal with AI, it will be the second major international media conglomerate to be compensated for its content which is effectively training these large language AI sausage makers.

German media giant Axel Springer publishes, among others, Politico, Business Insider, the conservative daily newspaper Die Welt and tabloid Bild Zeitung.

Under its deal, heralded as the first between a global media player and OpenAI, Axel Springer will make its content available to ChatGPT but with attribution and links to the original sources of reporting.

ChatGPT’s users will also receive summaries of news stories from Axel Springer’s brands, in a move that suggests the agreement will add to the publisher’s reach.

‘Those who repurpose without approval are stealing and are undermining the very act of creativity – counterfeiting is not creating, and the AI world is replete with content counterfeiters.’

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson

Major media groups such as News and Axel Springer may have taken the courtship route – but others haven’t.

In late December, The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement, which it described as opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorised use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The lawsuit, filed in New York, argues that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.

The legal action doesn’t specify a remedy for what it claims, but has asked the court to hold OpenAI and its largest shareholder Microsoft responsible for billions of dollars in damages.

Nor has Axel Springer disclosed the value of compensation it will receive from its AI deal.

There’s a plethora of writers, artists and photographers around the world who have begun legal action against various generative AI companies.

But OpenAI alone is worth $US80 billion ($123 billion), and growing, so it’s not a fair fight.

News Corp, which has a market capitalisation of $14 billion, clearly understands the hazards of going to war with a far larger enemy – as does Alex Springer, which is about half the size of News Corp.

It appears that Nine, the owner of this masthead, is likely to take a more conservative courtship path with AI, rather than an aggressive one.

That said, all media eyes will be on whatever deal Murdoch strikes, and how the New York Times litigation pans out.

Not everyone is prepared to do a deal with the devil.

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Source: Thanks smh.com