April 19, 2024
AI's 2024 Battle, Copyright Law as the Arena

AI’s 2024 Battle: Copyright Law as the Arena

Potential conflicts over copyright in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) may shape the trajectory of this technology in 2024, potentially outpacing the influence of legislative or regulatory measures. A recent lawsuit filed by The New York Times against OpenAI and Microsoft alleges “widescale copying” by their AI systems, claiming copyright infringement. This legal battle reflects a broader trend of creators seeking protection against the replication and repackaging of their works by generative AI tools.

As 2024 unfolds, pivotal court decisions may redefine the landscape of AI innovation. The outcomes of copyright disputes, both regarding the use of copyrighted material in AI system development and the status of works created with AI assistance, hold substantial importance for the technology’s future. These rulings could also play a decisive role in determining winners and losers in the AI market.

James Grimmelmann, a professor of digital and information law at Cornell, emphasizes the significance of copyright decisions in shaping the future of AI, stating, “Every time a new technology comes out that makes copying or creation easier, there’s a struggle over how to apply copyright law to it.” He underscores the potential distortion of innovation if copyright owners selectively target technologies perceived as posing infringement risks.

According to University of Miami Professor of Law Andres Sawicki, if courts rule that training AI systems constitutes infringement, it could significantly impact AI development. However, Jerry Levine, general counsel for ContractPodAI, expresses confidence in the adaptability of the copyright system to the AI era, suggesting that AI providers can mitigate infringement risks by summarizing text and linking to the original instead of reproducing entire copyrighted works.

Concerns are raised about the impact of potential rulings on smaller players in the AI field, as licensing deals and lawsuits may favor larger entities with substantial resources. The fear is that mandatory licensing could restrict AI development to companies with deep pockets, excluding startups, academic researchers, and open-source movements.

The article concludes by noting that while copyright law may address certain legal questions related to generative AI, it may not be the ideal tool for addressing broader societal implications of AI, such as labor policy, privacy, or content regulation.


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