Microsoft announced Thursday that it will assume responsibility for potential legal risks posed to its customers by copyright infringement claims arising from the use of its artificial intelligence (AI) products.
The company said it will extend its existing intellectual property (IP) indemnification coverage to copyright claims related to the use of its AI-powered Copilots – which are trained on existing data and generate an output in response to users’ prompts. Microsoft noted that some customers "are concerned about the risk of IP infringement claims if they use the output produced by generative AI."
"To address this customer concern, Microsoft is announcing our new Copilot Copyright Commitment," wrote Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith and CVP and Chief Legal Officer Hossein Nowbar. "As customers ask whether they can use Microsoft’s Copilot services and the output they generate without worrying about copyright claims, we are providing a straightforward answer: yes, you can, and if you are challenged on copyright grounds, we will assume responsibility for the potential legal risks involved."
Microsoft went on to explain that the company is doing this because it believes "in standing behind our customers when they use our products" and is an extension of its two-decade practice of defending customers against patent claims concerning its products.
The company said it’s "sensitive to the concerns of authors, and we believe that Microsoft rather than our customers should assume the responsibility to address them."
"It is critical for authors to retain control of their rights under copyright law and earn a healthy return on their creations," Microsoft added. "And we should ensure that the content needed to train and ground AI models is not locked up in the hands of one or a few companies in ways that would stifle competition and innovation."
As part of the Copilot Copyright Commitment, Microsoft will require that customers abide by the filters and guardrails built into its Copilots that are intended to reduce the likelihood they return infringing content.
This comes as several lawsuits have been filed by authors and artists against AI service providers alleging that copyrighted works were used to train AI models without the consent of the copyright holder.
To the extent AI programs are trained on copyrighted materials, if those are depicted in the content generated by AI it can exacerbate the alleged infringement.
Among the programs included in the Copilot Copyright Commitment are the Microsoft 365 Copilot, which functions in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other programs, in addition to Microsoft’s commercial Copilot services, Bing Chat Enterprise and GitHub Copilot.
Reuters contributed to this report.