Microsoft’s AI Head Says It Is Okay To Steal Content If It’s On The Open Web

Microsoft’s AI boss Mustafa Suleyman believes that content on the open web is “freeware” that anyone can freely copy and use. During an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Suleyman claimed that since the 1990s, the social contract of open web content has been that it is fair use, allowing anyone to copy, recreate, and reproduce it. This stance aligns with Microsoft’s current involvement in multiple lawsuits alleging that it, alongside OpenAI, is stealing copyrighted online stories to train generative AI models.

However, Suleyman’s perspective is fundamentally flawed. In the United States, any work created is automatically protected by copyright the moment it is created, regardless of whether it is published on the web. This protection does not require application, and publishing online does not void these rights. The concept of fair use, which Suleyman references, is not a social contract but a legal defense determined by courts. Fair use considers several factors, including what is being copied, the purpose, the amount used, and the potential harm to the copyright owner.

Suleyman’s assertion that training AI on copyrighted content is fair use is contentious and not universally accepted. Most AI companies have been more cautious in their public statements on the matter. Suleyman’s comments highlight a broader debate within the tech industry regarding the boundaries of copyright and AI training.

He also touched on the use of robots.txt files, which websites use to specify which bots can and cannot scrape their content. Suleyman acknowledged this as a grey area that might eventually be settled in court. However, robots.txt is not a legally binding document but rather a part of the web’s social contract since the 1990s. Despite this, some AI companies, including OpenAI, reportedly ignore these directives, raising further ethical and legal questions about the use of web content for AI training.

Suleyman’s views reflect a significant and ongoing debate about intellectual property rights in the age of AI, emphasizing the need for clear legal frameworks to navigate this complex landscape.

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