AP CEO warns of “existential threat” to publishers from generative AI

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Generative Artificial Intelligence engines built on content scraped from publishers pose an “existential threat” to media owners unless regulators impose laws around attribution and ownership, the chief executive of the Associated Press said on Friday.

“There is no doubt it poses a serious challenge to our intellectual property, and that is a big concern to all content creators and originators of media,” Daisy Veerasingham told a session of the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. “We have to as an industry come together to create a legislative framework that will better protect our IP because these tools are learning and are becoming smarter as a result of the work that we do. We need to ensure that we are protected. Otherwise, we will face an existential threat if we don’t respond in that way.

“We can’t allow what happened with search to happen again,” she said in comments during a session on a new generation of media CEOs

Daisy Veerasingham, CEO of the Associated Press, spoke recently about the threat to content she sees in generative AI..
Daisy Veerasingham, CEO of the Associated Press, spoke recently about the threat to content she sees in generative AI..

The AP had been taken by surprise at the scale of its content that had been ingested by Open AI to help build the large language model beneath its ChatGPT engine, Veerasingham said. She urged publishers and legislators to move fast and decisively to protect the ownership of content.

In response to a question from INMA, Veerasingham elaborated on her concerns that the corpus of Associated Press — along with Reuters and virtually all other international publishers — had been absorbed by Open AI to create the model that powers its generative AI tools.

I wrote about the sources of the content and the problems with attribution in an earlier post, and my colleague Ariane Bernard, who leads the INMA Smart Data Initiative, tackled the subject of copyright in a blog published today.

“We were surprised, and that’s why I make my point that it is an existential threat if we don’t figure out how to protect everybody’s copyright because it’s about all of the content that these systems are using that will make them smarter, that will make them be able to compete with us,” she said. “We have to be honest about that they will be able to compete with us if we don’t work out ways of protecting our intellectual property.”

OpenAI has said its large language model is based on content ingested from the Internet and published prior to September 2021. It collected the information on the basis of research, but OpenAI’s shift to a for-profit model and collaboration with companies such as Microsoft means it is arguably monetising publisher content.

As with clashes between news publishers and Facebook and Google, Robert Thomson, chief executive officer at News Corporation, has led the charge to defend the interests of content creators in preserving the long-term value of their journalism and historical archives.

“When AI is being trained, they are often using professional content — i.e. our content — and we should be rewarded for that,” Thomson told a conference in Australia this month. “It will clearly be surfacing ­individual stories or features that we’ve done, and we need compensation for that … and most dangerously with AI and bigger intelligence, they will be synthesising aggregated content from various sources and surfacing a snippet.”

News Corp has said it is already in talks with a so far unnamed generative AI company. AP’s Veerasingham said publishers needed to work much more collaboratively than they had in the original days of internet search to combat the threat from generative AI. (Thomson can be expected to talk about generative AI in his keynote at the INMA World Congress in May.)

Veerasingham noted that the shift to generative AI search was a direct threat to a significant percentage of traffic to news sites: “If your biggest monetisation model is driven by advertising and search and now you don’t have to go back to you as a content originator for those results then that’s a fundamental other pressure on that business. We need the money to keep journalism funded in the world at large.”

She also made clear that Associated Press was an enthusiastic user of Artificial Intelligence and had been for a decade. That would only grow in the future as routine tasks lent themselves to automation that would unlock time for journalists to be more effective.

“There is no doubt that using Artificial Intelligence helps the efficiency and effectiveness of your news report… . It has improved our efficiency, it’s taken away a task that we were doing and allowed our journalists to focus on more valuable reporting,” she said.

On topic, INMA just released an in-depth report on the impact of generative AI on newsrooms: News Media at the Dawn of Generative AI, which is free to INMA members.

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About Peter Bale

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