Generative AI has been most synonymous in the public mind with “AI” since the commercial breakout of ChatGPT in November 2022. Consumers and businesses have seen the fruits of impressive innovation in various generative models’ ability to create audio, video, images and text, analyze and transform data, perform Q&A chatbot

Last week, OpenAI rolled out ChatGPT Team, a flexible subscription structure for small-to-medium sized businesses (with two or more users) that are not large enough to warrant the expense of a ChatGPT Enterprise subscription (which requires a minimum of 150 licensed users).  Despite being less expensive than its Enterprise counterpart, ChatGPT Team provides for the use of the latest OpenAI models with the robust privacy, security and confidentiality protections that previously only applied to the ChatGPT Enterprise subscription and which are far more protective than the terms that govern ordinary personal accounts. This development could be the proverbial “game changer” for smaller businesses, as for the first time, they can have access to tools previously only available to OpenAI Enterprise customers, under OpenAI’s more favorable Business Terms and the privacy policies listed on the Enterprise Privacy page, without making the financial or technical commitment required under an Enterprise relationship. 

Thus, for example, ChatGPT Team customers would be covered by the Business Terms’ non-training commitment (OpenAI’s Team announcement states: “We never train on your business data or conversations”), and by other data security controls, as well as Open AI’s “Copyright Shield,” which offers indemnity for customers in the event that a generated output infringes third party IP.[1] Moreover, under the enterprise-level privacy protections, customers can also create custom GPT models that are for in-house use and not shared with anyone else.

As noted above, until now, the protections under the OpenAI Business Terms were likely beyond reach for many small and medium sized businesses, either because of the financial commitment required by OpenAI’s Enterprise agreement or because of the unavailability of the technical infrastructure necessary to implement the OpenAI API Service. In the past, such smaller entities might resort to having employees use free or paid OpenAI products under individual accounts, with internal precautions (like restrictive AI policies) in place to avoid confidentiality and privacy concerns.[2]

As we’ve seen over the last year, one generative AI provider’s rollout of a new product, tool or contractual protection often results in other providers following suit. Indeed, earlier this week Microsoft announced that it is “expanding Copilot for Microsoft 365 availability to small and medium-sized businesses.” With businesses of all sizes using, testing or developing custom GAI products to stay abreast with the competition, we will watch for future announcements from other providers about more flexible licensing plans for small-to-medium sized businesses.

On December 19, 2023, AI research company Anthropic announced that it had updated and made publicly available its Commercial Terms of Service (effective Jan 1, 2024) to, among other things, indemnify its enterprise Claude API customers from copyright infringement claims made against them for “their authorized use of our services

In a previous post, we highlighted three key items to look out for when assessing the terms and conditions of generative artificial intelligence (“GAI”) tools: training rights, use restrictions and responsibility for outputs. With respect to responsibility for outputs specifically, we detailed Microsoft’s shift away, through its Copilot Copyright Commitment (discussed in greater detail below), from the blanket disclaimer of all responsibility for GAI tools’ outputs that we initially saw from most GAI providers.

In the latest expansion of intellectual property protection offered by a major GAI provider, OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman announced to OpenAI “DevDay” conference attendees that “we can defend our customers and pay the costs incurred if you face legal claims around copyright infringement, and this applies both to ChatGPT Enterprise and the API.”

In the first half of 2023, a deluge of new generative artificial intelligence (“GAI”) tools hit the market, with companies ranging from startups to tech giants rolling out new products. In the large language model space alone, we have seen OpenAI’s GPT-4, Meta’s LLaMA, Anthropic’s Claude 2, Microsoft’s Bing AI, and others.

A proliferation of tools has meant a proliferation of terms and conditions. Many popular tools have both a free version and a paid version, which each subject to different terms, and several providers also have ‘enterprise’ grade tools available to the largest customers. For businesses looking to trial GAI, the number of options can be daunting.

This article sets out three key items to check when evaluating a GAI tool’s terms and conditions. Although determining which tool is right for a particular business is a complex question that requires an analysis of terms and conditions in their entirety – not to mention nonlegal considerations like pricing and technical capabilities – the below items can provide prospective customers with a starting place, as well as bellwether to help spot terms and conditions that are more or less aggressive than the market standard.

In today’s digital age, the question isn’t whether there is open source software being used in a company’s products, but how it is being used and what license governs its use. Open source is ubiquitous.  Despite its widespread use over the past decade, the provisions of open source licenses have been interpreted by only a handful of U.S. and foreign courts.  Open source-related disputes do not usually reach court as open source advocacy groups that enforce open source license provisions often work out a resolution between the parties without litigation.

However, one recent open source dispute has reached the courthouse. As discussed below, a new case filed in California state court could test the enforcement of one of the most common family of open source licenses, the GNU General Public Licenses or “GPL.” If the plaintiff is successful, the case could have the effect of expanding enforcement of GPL licenses under the rubric of consumer protection and allow a broad range of parties to bring claims under the GPL as third party beneficiaries of those licenses.

Last week, the Software Freedom Conservancy, Inc. (“SFC”) filed a complaint against smart-TV manufacturer Vizio, Inc. (“Vizio”) alleging a failure to comply with the GNU General Public License Version 2 (“GPLv2”) and GNU Lesser General Public License Version 2.1 (“LGPL v2.1”) (collectively, the “GPL Licenses”).  SFC alleges that, over the last four years, Vizio distributed smart TVs that included executable versions of Vizio’s “SmartCast code.  The SmartCast code, it alleged,  contained modifications to the Linux kernel and other code obtained by Vizio pursuant to the GPL Licenses.  SFC asserts that Vizio did not release the corresponding modified source code (as enhanced, modified or otherwise altered by Vizio) or accompany their smart TVs with a written offer to supply such code upon demand, as is required under the GPL Licenses. (Software Freedom Conservancy, Inc. v. Vizio, Inc., No. 30-2021-01226723 (Cal. Super. Orange Cty Filed Oct. 19, 2021)).

In what could be prove to be an important decision within the context of scraping of “public” data, in a recent case the Eleventh Circuit reversed a lower court’s dismissal of trade secret claims relating to the scraping of insurance quotes. (Compulife Software, Inc. v. Newman, No. 18-12004 (11th Cir. May 20, 2020)). The appellate court agreed with the lower court that while Compulife’s insurance quote database was a trade secret, manually accessing life insurance quote information from the plaintiff’s publicly web-accessible database would generally not constitute the improper acquisition of trade secret information.  However, the court disagreed with the lower court in finding that the use of automated techniques to scrape large portions of the database could constitute “improper means” under state trade secret law.  In reversing the lower court’s dismissal of the trade secret claims, the appeals court stressed that “the simple fact that the quotes taken were publicly available does not automatically resolve the question in the defendants’ favor.”   Even though there was no definitive ruling in the case – as the appeals court remanded the case for further proceedings – it is certainly one to watch, as there are very few cases where trade secrets claims are plead following instances of data scraping.

In an innovative initiative in the battle against the Coronavirus, the newly-formed Open COVID Coalition (the “Coalition”) launched the Open COVID Pledge (the “Pledge”), a framework for organizations to contribute intellectual property to the fight against COVID-19. Pursuant to the Pledge, rightsholders can openly license intellectual property to facilitate the development of tools and technologies to counter the COVID pandemic. These would include the manufacturing of medical equipment and testing kits, as well as the development of software, AI and biotech solutions to contain and end the virus. Many major technology companies and other organizations have signed on to the Pledge.

The Coalition created a form of license which participants may to use to fulfill the pledge.  Under the license, the Open COVID License 1.0 (“OCL”), the pledgor grants a “non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid-up license (without the right to sublicense)” to exploit the IP (other than trademarks or trade secrets) in products, services and other articles of manufacture “for the sole purpose of ending the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’ (as defined by the World Health Organization, “WHO”) and minimizing the impact of the disease, including without limitation the diagnosis, prevention, containment, and treatment of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The term of the OCL is retroactive to December 1, 2019 and runs until one year after WHO declares the end of the pandemic. Under the OCL, the pledgor “will not assert any regulatory exclusivity against any entity for use of the Licensed IP” in accordance with the license grant, and agrees to not seek injunctive or regulatory relief to prevent any entity from using the licensed IP. As with some traditional open source licenses, the licensed IP is granted without any warranties and the license is suspended if the license threatens or initiates any legal proceeding against the pledgor. Lastly, all copyright and related rights granted under the OCL are deemed waived pursuant to the Creative Commons 1.0 Universal License (public domain dedication).

In early February 2020, before most of us were truly aware of the implications of COVID-19, a well-respected IT consulting group predicted a $4.3 trillion global spend on information technology in 2020. Drivers of the projected activity included cybersecurity, outdated infrastructure, mobile accessibility needs, cloud and SaaS transitions, and on-premises technology requirements.  In late 2019, another well-respected consulting group had predicted that, in 2020, “[t]here will be increasing opportunities for technology vendors and service providers to grow their businesses, and for technology buyers to innovate and upgrade their infrastructure, software, and services.” In fact, as 2020 began, many deals for technology development, implementation and related services were signed and technology providers, consultants and related service providers (collectively referred to in this post as “vendors”) and their customers were busy building, implementing and testing new systems.

Then came COVID-19. Most people in the United States and in many other parts of the world are now working from home. Capital markets are volatile. The global economy came to a screeching halt and recessions are forecast.  As a result of these and other factors, many deals that were humming along nicely are now facing significant and unanticipated challenges. For example:

  • In many cases, neither the vendor nor the customer community is “in the office.” While it is not uncommon for software developers to work remotely, many important aspects of a complex implementation – e.g., hardware installation, software testing and user training – are most effective when done on site. Obviously, given the work-from-home and no-travel environment that we are in, this is not possible.
  • Key individuals from both the vendor and customer community may be less available, either due to their own illnesses or due to pressing family issues or other concerns related to the pandemic.
  • Some customers may experience significant and unanticipated financial distress, and as a result, the payment obligations associated with the initiative may become particularly burdensome for them. Vendors may also be facing similar financial distress.
  • Due to the downturn in the business climate resulting from the pandemic, the business volume assumptions on which the ongoing initiative was based may no longer be realistic.

This blog post is intended to suggest a practical approach that both technology vendors and their customers might take to find amicable solutions to challenged deals.

For the film and media distribution industries, this year has been action-packed.  Production budgets are skyrocketing and new digital services have been announced or are launching with each passing month. The streaming wars are upon us. Moreover, the FCC recently voted to treat streaming services as “effective competition” to traditional cable providers (or MVPDs), thereby triggering basic cable rate de-regulation in parts of Hawaii and Massachusetts.

The distribution landscape took yet another unexpected legal twist this week. On November 18, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim announced that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice would ask a federal court to terminate the “Paramount Consent Decrees” (the “Decrees”), which have prohibited movie studios from engaging in certain distribution practices with movie theaters since the 1940s. The DOJ filed a motion to terminate the Decrees in federal court in the Southern District of New York on November 22, 2019.  Notably, the DOJ cites streaming services and new technology as a few of the many reasons that the Decrees may no longer be necessary in what the DOJ official sees as today’s highly competitive, consumer-driven content market. Given the volatility of the content licensing space, film licensors and licensees will have to carefully consider how the DOJ’s actions will affect their content rights and options going forward.