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Boom in AI prompts test of copyright law

Boom in AI prompts test of copyright law

The boom in artificial intelligence tools that retrieve vast amounts of content from the Internet has begun to test the limits of copyright law.

The authors and a major photo agency sued last year, arguing that their intellectual property was used illegally to train AI systems that could produce humane prose and power applications like chatbots. Is.

Now they have been thrust into the spotlight by the news industry. The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft on Wednesday, accusing them of copyright infringement, the first such challenge by a major US news organization over the use of artificial intelligence.

The lawsuit argues that OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's Bing Chat can produce content nearly identical to Times articles, allowing the companies to “compromise the Times's larger interests in its journalism by using it to create substitute products without permission or payment.” “Scale allows for free riding on investments.”

OpenAI and Microsoft have not had the opportunity to respond in court. But after the lawsuit was filed, those companies noted that they were in discussions with several news organizations on using their content — and, in the case of OpenAI, had begun signing deals.

Without such agreements, limits could be settled in the courts, which could have significant consequences. Data is vital to developing generative AI technologies – which can generate text, images and other media on their own – and also to the business models of the companies that do this work.

“Copyright will be one of the key points that shapes the generic AI industry,” said Fred Havemeyer, an analyst at financial research firm Macquarie.

The “fair use” doctrine is a central idea in intellectual property law, allowing creators to build upon a copyrighted work. Among other factors, defendants in copyright cases are required to prove that they have substantially altered the material and are not competing in the same market as a substitute for the original creator's work.

For example, a review quoting excerpts from a book may be considered fair use because it creates a new, unique work on that material. On the other hand, selling extended excerpts from a book may violate the principle.

Courts have not focused on how those standards apply to AI devices.

“There's no clear answer in the United States as to whether or not this is copyright infringement or whether or not this is fair use,” said Ryan Abbott, an attorney at Brown Neri Smith & Khan who handles intellectual property cases. “Meanwhile, we have a lot of lawsuits going on with potentially billions of dollars at stake.”

It may take some time for the industry to get definitive answers.

The cases raising these questions are in the early stages of litigation. If they do not settle (as is the case in most litigation), it could take years for a federal district court to rule on the case. Those decisions will likely be appealed, and appellate decisions may vary by circuit, potentially elevating the question to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It could take about a decade to get there, Mr Abbott said. “A decade is an eternity in the market we are currently going through,” he said.

The Times said in its lawsuit that it was negotiating with Microsoft and OpenAI about terms to resolve the dispute, potentially including licensing. Axel Springer, the German owner of the Associated Press and outlets such as Politico and Business Insider, recently arrived data licensing agreements with OpenAI,

Taking the cases to trial could answer important questions about what copyrighted data AI developers are able to use and how. But it could also serve as leverage for the plaintiffs to secure a more favorable licensing deal through settlement.

Columbia Law School professor Jane Ginsberg said, “Ultimately, whether this lawsuit will shape copyright law will be determined by whether the lawsuit is really about fair use and the future of copyright, or whether it is just a matter of conversation.” There is a defense.” , said by The Times about the lawsuit.

How the legal landscape plays out could shape the emerging capital-heavy AI industry.

Venture capital has flooded into some AI companies in the past year after the public rollout of ChatGPIT went viral. The stock plan under consideration could value OpenAI at more than $80 billion; Microsoft has invested $13 billion in the company and incorporated its technology into its products. But questions about the use of intellectual property to train models remain uppermost in investors' minds, Mr. Havemeyer said.

Competition in the AI ​​field may be limited between having and not having data.

Companies with access to large amounts of data, such as Adobe and Bloomberg – or those that have collected their own data, such as Meta and Google – have begun to develop their own AI tools. Mr. Havemeyer said an established company like Microsoft was well equipped to secure data licensing agreements and deal with legal challenges. But start-ups with less capital may have difficulty obtaining the data they need to compete.

“Generative AI starts and ends with data,” Mr. Havemeyer said.

Benjamin Mullin Contributed to the reporting.

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