If 2023 was the year that artificial intelligence changed everything, 2024 may be remembered as the year that US copyright law changed regarding AI.

The explosion of generative AI and the popularity of Microsoft-backed initiatives such as OpenAI, Meta, Midjourney, and others have resulted in several copyright cases brought by writers, artists, and other copyright holders who claim that AI has had success only thanks to their work.

Judges have so far been skeptical of plaintiffs’ claims of infringement based on AI-generated content. However, the courts have yet to address the more complicated and potentially billion-dollar question of whether AI companies are infringing on a massive scale by training their systems with vast amounts of images, writings, and other data obtained from the internet.

Tech companies warn that lawsuits could create significant obstacles for the growing AI industry. The plaintiffs claim the companies owe them for using their work without permission or compensation.

Several groups of authors filed class action lawsuits this year over the use of their texts in AI training. This includes writers like John Grisham and “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin, comedian Sarah Silverman and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Tech companies have hired legions of lawyers from some of the biggest law firms in the US to take on the cases. They defended AI training in comments to the US Copyright Office, comparing it to how humans learn new concepts and arguing that their use of the material qualifies as “fair use” under copyright law.

What comes next?

An ongoing lawsuit involving Thomson Reuters – the parent company of Reuters News – could be one of the first significant AI indicators copyright issues.

The company accused Ross Intelligence in 2020 of illegally copying thousands of “headnotes” from its Westlaw legal research platform. The portal summarizes court decisions and was used to train an AI-based legal search engine.

A federal judge ruled in September that the Delaware case must go to trial to determine whether Ross violated the law. The lawsuit could set an essential precedent for fair use and AI copyright litigation issues. A jury could begin hearing the case as early as August.

Source: Forbes