Google To Protect Users of Its AI Against Copyright Lawsuits

Google is joining the likes of Microsoft in insulating users of its generative AI products from intellectual property disputes.

The company announced that it would assume the legal responsibility for content created by its customers using its AI technologies, should that content be slapped with a copyright infringement claim. 

"[T]o put it plainly for you, our customers: if you are challenged on copyright grounds, we will assume responsibility for the potential legal risks involved," wrote Google vice presidents Phil Venables and Neal Suggs in a blog post last week

Besides its ChatGPT competitor, Bard, Google is also the steward of the Vertex AI development platform, its associated Codey APIs, and the Duet AI chat assistant. According to the post, Google's AI indemnity policy will specifically cover the following products: 

  • Duet AI in Workspace, including generated text in Google Docs and Gmail and generated images in Google Slides and Google Meet 
  • Duet AI in Google Cloud including Duet AI for assisted application development 
  • Vertex AI Search 
  • Vertex AI Conversation 
  • Vertex AI Text Embedding API / Multimodal Embeddings 
  • Visual Captioning / Visual Q&A on Vertex AI 
  • Codey APIs 

In what it called an "industry-first approach," Google's policy will cover two key areas: the output generated by its AI, and the models it uses to train it. 

When it comes to legal challenges related to Google's training data, Suggs and Venables wrote, "Our training data indemnity covers any allegations that Google's use of training data to create any of our generative models utilized by a generative AI service, infringes a third party's intellectual property right."

According to them, this is not a new development; legal challenges to training data have always been covered by Google's "general services indemnity," they wrote. However, with many organizations still confused about how or whether that policy applies to training data -- and perhaps to assuage concerns arising from high-profile lawsuits against Google alleging that it trained its models on copyright-protected artistic works -- the company is making this clarification.      

"We hope this gives you confidence that your company is protected against third parties claiming copyright infringement as a result of Google's use of training data," they said. "Put simply, regardless of the training data underlying all our services, Google indemnifies you."  

The second tenet of Google's AI indemnity policy involves the content that its customers generate using the aforementioned AI services.  "[O]ur indemnity obligations now also apply to allegations that generated output infringes a third party's intellectual property rights," Suggs and Venables said. "The generated output indemnity means that you can use content generated with a range of our products knowing Google will indemnify you for third-party IP claims, including copyright."      

Google emphasized, however, that those protections will not apply if a user is found to "intentionally create or use generated output to infringe the rights of others."     

Google's announcement of a comprehensive AI indemnity policy echoes a similar one made by Microsoft in September, in which Redmond pledged to protect users of its Copilot line of generative AI solutions. At that time, Microsoft president Brad Smith gave Copilot users this assurance: "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."

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.