Google offers some copyright indemnity to users of its generative AI services

Google has joined the ranks of AI services providers willing to offer its customers limited indemnity against copyright infringement claims.

Many generative AI services rely on neural networks trained from content slurped from all sorts of sources without consent or payment. Content creators have launched lawsuits to seek compensation for the inclusion of their works in those models, which can be prompted to produce works that closely imitate or straight-up rip off their distinct styles and themes.

Enterprises contemplating the use of generative AI are therefore sensibly concerned that they could be exposed to legal risk. Microsoft already announced it would defend customers using its Copilot products against copyright infringement lawsuits. Google has now done likewise.

“If you are challenged on copyright grounds, we will assume responsibility for the potential legal risks involved,” Neal Suggs and Phil Venables, VP Legal and VP, TI Security & CISO at Google Cloud respectively, wrote in a Thursday statement.

“It means that you can expect Google Cloud to cover claims, like copyright infringement, made against your company, regardless of whether they stem from the generated output or Google’s use of training data to create our generative AI models.”

Google’s indemnification offer applies to Duet AI, the chatbot integrated with its Workspace apps, and to the Vertex AI platform which includes AI Search, AI Conversation, AI Text and Multimodal Embeddings, and Visual Captioning software. The code-generating Codey APIs are also covered by the indemnity policy.

“We are offering protection against allegations that both the training and output of AI systems infringe copyrights, as opposed to just the output argument,” a Google spokesperson confirmed to The Register in a statement.

The protection, however, will not cover cases if a user intentionally prompts a model to generate content that directly copies someone else’s work.

“You as a customer also have a part to play. For example, this indemnity only applies if you didn’t try to intentionally create or use generated output to infringe the rights of others, and similarly, are using existing and emerging tools, for example to cite sources to help use generated output responsibly,” Suggs and Venables said.

That means Google’s lawyers may not rush to the rescue if users ask Duet AI to copy the work of a specific author, a spokesperson confirmed to The Register. Google said it will review all relevant information with a customer for every copyright allegation, we’re told.

Such restrictions on indemnity are not unusual. Microsoft’s policy, for example, only applies when users employ AI guardrails designed to prevent problematic output.

Whether or not AI systems violate copyright laws at the training or output stages isn’t quite clear, and still being worked through the courts in America at least, the US Copyright Office has at least clarified that AI-generated content cannot be protected by copyright. ®


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