Microsoft is telling customers that it will take legal responsibility if they are sued for copyright infringement while using the company’s Copilot AI services.
In a blog post about an initiative called the Copilot Copyright Commitment, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer, said the company will take on any legal risks as more copyright holders question how AI companies handle protected works. Microsoft said the policy is an extension of its own overall AI customer commitmentsannounced earlier this year.
Microsoft said it chose this path for three reasons: it wants to support customers when they use its services; understands the concern of copyright holders; and has built barriers against the possibility that the results will infringe copyrighted material.
“If a third party sues a business customer for copyright infringement for using Microsoft Copilots or the output they generate, we will defend the customer and pay the amount of any adverse judgment or settlement resulting from the lawsuit, provided that the customer used guardrails and content filters,” Smith wrote.
Smith indicated that one of the reasons for the partnership was to manage uncertainty in copyright law without turning people away from generative AI services. “It is critical that authors maintain control of their rights under copyright law and earn a good return on their creations,” Smith wrote, but “we should ensure that the content needed to train and ground AI models does not is locked in the hands of one or a few companies in a way that stifles competition and innovation.” Some companies have floated the idea of granting licenses and permissions as a way to allow AI projects to access data and not infringe on intellectual property rights.
Microsoft launched a series of generative AI services under the Copilot brand that has since been integrated into many Microsoft products. Starting with GitHub Copilot in June 2022, which allows people to write code, Copilot is now available in Windows 11, the Edge browser, Teams, Outlook, and other Microsoft business offerings. It covers services like Bing Chat Enterprise, but as Microsoft’s blog post suggests, non-commercial users of services like free, AI-powered Bing can’t turn to the company for legal defense.
Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI are already facing a lawsuit that claims Copilot regurgitates licensed code without giving credit to the creators. Authors and visual artists have filed lawsuits alleging that AI companies have illegally used their work to train generative AI models.