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Looming Fights Over Copyright in AI Set to Shape the Technology’s Future in 2024

As generative AI tools continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible, a growing number of copyright disputes are poised to significantly impact the trajectory of AI innovation in the year ahead.

Driving the news: The New York Times recently filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft, alleging that their AI systems’ “widescale copying” constitutes copyright infringement.

The big picture: After a year of lawsuits from creators seeking to protect their works from being absorbed and repackaged by generative AI tools, 2024 could see crucial rulings that alter the progress of AI development.

Why it matters: The upcoming copyright decisions – regarding both the use of copyrighted material in training AI systems and the status of works created by or with AI – are pivotal to the technology’s future, potentially determining winners and losers in the market.

What they’re saying:

  • “Copyright owners have been lining up to take whacks at generative AI like a giant piñata woven out of their works. 2024 is likely to be the year we find out whether there is money inside,” says James Grimmelmann, professor of digital and information law at Cornell.
  • “If copyright law says that some kinds of AI models are legal and others aren’t, it will steer innovation down a path determined not by what uses of AI are beneficial to society but one based on irrelevant technical details of the training process,” Grimmelmann warns.
  • University of Miami Professor of Law Andres Sawicki notes that a ruling limiting generative AI to only players with the resources to fight lawsuits and license large amounts of data could severely constrain innovation in the field.

The bottom line: As copyright law becomes the default framework for addressing the societal impacts of AI, experts caution that it may not be the appropriate tool for regulating the technology’s broader effects on privacy, labor, and public safety. The outcomes of these legal battles could have far-reaching consequences for the future of AI development.

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