Last week, Microsoft announced the Copilot Copyright Commitment, aimed at protecting Copilot customers from copyright infringement claims.
If a third-party sues a commercial customer for copyright infringement for using Microsoft’s Copilots or the output they generate, Microsoft promises to legally defend the customer and incur any damages and legal fees.
Microsoft wrote in a release, “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.”
The coverage applies to Copilot services and Bing Chat Enterprise. It includes Microsoft 365 Copilot for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and also includes GitHub Copilot.
Copyright concerns with using generative AI output, the company said, are understandable as authors and artists question the use of their work to train AI models.
But since late last year, Microsoft has also been mired in a Copilot copyright lawsuit, accusing the company, its software development platform, GitHub, and partner OpenAI of scraping public code to train OpenAI’s Codex machine learning model and GitHub’s Copilot programming assistant.
The companies said at the time that the lawsuit did not identify particular copyrighted works they misused, and that the copyright allegations would “run headlong into the doctrine of fair use,” which allows the unlicensed use of copyrighted works in some situations.
With the new commitment, however, Microsoft asserted that it is sensitive to the concerns of authors, adding that “even where existing copyright law is clear, generative AI is raising new public policy issues” and that “it is critical for authors to retain control of their rights under copyright law and earn a healthy return on their creations.”
The company also said that it has incorporated filters and other technologies designed to reduce the likelihood that Copilots return infringing content. Customers have to use the guardrails and content filters in order to qualify for the indemnity coverage.
The customer also cannot provide input to a Copilot service that they do not have appropriate rights to use, Microsoft said.
The commitment, the company stressed, does not change Microsoft’s position that it does not claim any intellectual property rights in the outputs of its Copilot services.