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What’s the deal with Microsoft’s Copilot Copyright Commitment

Microsoft loves to boast about their “Copilot Copyright Commitment” but what does it really mean and how much protection do customers really get?

There’s a concern that AI generated content might be subject to intellectual property (IP) law suits.  Perhaps because an AI image or text is too similar to copyrighted content.  The New York Times, among many, have noted that AI made images can be way too similar to a well-known copyrighted picture.

An AI image prompt “Create an animated sponge” makes something similar to Spongebob Squarepants. Source: The New York Times.

AI companies, including Microsoft are adding limitations to stop ‘memorization’ where the AI learns from too much similar content. Despite that, the legal risk remains for both AI companies and their customers.

Back in September 2023, Microsoft announced their “Copilot Copyright Commitment” where the company says it will defend any IP claims made from use of content made by Microsoft’s AI.

They go onto say that Microsoft “does not claim any intellectual property rights in the outputs of its Copilot service”. That’s far from the whole story.

The commitment only applies to commercial paid Copilot services.  Free and consumer Copilot (such as Copilot Pro), don’t qualify.

According to Microsoft this commitment is reflected in a ‘single change’ to the Product Terms – but where?  Unfortunately they don’t link to those specific terms or page, instead there’s a link the labyrinthine Product Terms that you have to search for yourself.

“Indemnification by You”

Separately we found the Copilot Supplemental Terms which apply to commercial Copilot. That has no mention of the Copyright Commitment. In fact, Section 6 seems to do the opposite i.e.  “Indemnification by You

6. No Guarantees; No Representations or Warranties; Indemnification by You.  …. you agree to indemnify and hold harmless Microsoft, its affiliates, employees, and any other agents from and against any claims, losses, and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) arising from or relating to your use of Copilot, including your subsequent use of any content from Copilot.

Source: Copilot Supplemental Terms
Section 6 of Copilot Supplemental Terms

Presumably (hopefully) the Copyright Commitment is set out somewhere in Microsoft’s complex Terms and Conditions. How can that commitment be reconciled with what seems to be the exact opposite in the Copilot terms? 

Customers deserve to be pointed direct to that wording so they can see the details and limits on the much-hyped promise.

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