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In the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence (AI), the intersection with copyright law is becoming increasingly prevalent. The rise of AI-generated content has sparked many lawsuits and important conversations about the future of copyright in the digital age, and as AI blurs the lines between human and machine creativity, we find ourselves grappling with new legal and ethical challenges. 

Even the U.S. Copyright Office is unsure of how to proceed. On August 30, the Copyright Office released a notice of inquiry seeking public comments on questions related to copyright law and policy issues raised by AI systems. This inquiry, aimed at adapting copyright policies for the 21st century, highlights key areas of concern: 

  • Training AI with Copyrighted Works: The legality of using copyrighted materials for AI training and the implications for AI-generated outputs. 
  • Copyrightability of AI-Generated Works: The debate over who owns the rights to AI creations—the AI developer, the user, or the AI itself. 
  • Infringement Liability: Determining responsibility for infringement by AI-generated works. 
  • Imitation of Human Artists: Ethical considerations regarding AI's ability to mimic human creativity. 

Amid this legal uncertainty, proactive measures from industry leaders offer a glimpse of clarity. Recognizing these complexities, leading AI companies have stepped up with their own initiatives. In June, Adobe announced protective measures for users of Firefly, its AI image generator, recognizing the need to address the legal implications of AI-generated content. In September, Microsoft unveiled its Copilot Copyright Commitment, pledging to handle legal settlements for customers using AI-generated material in its suite of products. Following suit, Google declared its intention to assume legal risks for customers facing copyright infringement claims. And most recently, at OpenAI's DevDay conference, the company introduced Copyright Shield, promising to cover legal costs for enterprise and API customers using ChatGPT.  

These proactive steps by AI industry leaders reflect a growing awareness and responsibility for the legal challenges posed by AI technologies. And while they don't completely eliminate concern, these steps ease the burden on customers. 

As we all navigate this complex legal landscape, the collaborative efforts between tech companies, legal experts, and policymakers will be crucial. These initiatives are not just about legal protection; they're about fostering a safe and innovative environment for AI to flourish without stifling creativity. 

For associations navigating this evolving landscape, understanding and integrating these developments is crucial. Associations have the unique opportunity to be at the forefront of this change by actively engaging in dialogue and developing a robust AI strategy. This involves staying informed about legal developments, understanding the potential of AI in specific contexts, and fostering a culture of innovation mindful of ethical considerations. 

If it seems overwhelming or you’re not sure where to start, our friends at Cimatri can help! Cimatri assists associations in developing a comprehensive AI roadmap, tailoring strategies to each organization's unique needs and challenges and offering tactical recommendations for how to leverage the latest technology.  

In this dynamic era, staying ahead in the AI game is not just an option but a necessity for future-proofing your operations and harnessing the full potential of technological advancements. 

Johanna Gundlach
Post by Johanna Gundlach
November 21, 2023
Johanna Gundlach is Senior Advisor to the Sidecar team and the first employee of Blue Cypress. She is passionate about helping grow leaders in the association and not-for-profit space. Outside of her work with Sidecar, Johanna loves exploring the mountains with her dog Laci.