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AI Legal Protections May Not Save You From Getting Sued

Bloomberg – Microsoft, Adobe and OpenAI are all pledging to defend their customers against intellectual property lawsuits, but that guarantee doesn’t apply to everyone. “AI companies are pledging to defend their customers against intellectual property lawsuits. Those indemnities are narrower than the announcements suggest. But first: The fine print Last Monday, twelve minutes into his 45-minute keynote at OpenAI’s first developers conference, CEO Sam Altman unveiled a set of legal protections the company is calling “Copyright Shield.” The new policy “means that we will step in and defend our customers and pay the costs incurred if you face legal claims around copyright infringement,” he said. Talking with journalists later that morning, Altman was asked why OpenAI had the confidence to legally protect customers, particularly with copyright lawsuits from writers, music labels and comedians raining down on Silicon Valley as tech companies use content from the web to train chatbots and image-generation services. “We’re very confident in our approach, but we want to share that confidence with developers,” Altman said….Copyright Shield got less attention than OpenAI’s other major news last week, like the option to customize its chatbot into tailored GPTs, and the potential of its new features to undermine other AI startups. But with so much anxiety and confusion about the legal risks of using generative AI, it’s worth examining further. OpenAI was actually late to the indemnification game. In June, Adobe announced it would protect customers against intellectual property lawsuits stemming from the use of its AI image generator, Firefly. Microsoft followed in September with its Copilot Copyright Commitment, pledging to pay settlements for customers who get sued for using or distributing material churned out by AI in software like Windows, Word, PowerPoint and its code-generator, Github Copilot. Last month, Google joined the party with a flexing blog post unveiling legal protections for users of its AI services. “To put it plainly for you, our customers: if you are challenged on copyright grounds, we will assume responsibility for the potential legal risks involved.”

The predictable truth, of course, is that if you read the fine print, the protections offered are narrower than what’s suggested by the PR — and by Altman’s curt answer at the press conference. For starters, the policies apply only to commercial customers that are paying to use services like ChatGPT Enterprise and Firefly for Enterprise. These premium options can include an extra set of guardrails that preclude them from inadvertently using copyrighted material in the first place…”

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