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AI Briefing: Elon Musk and Sam Altman battle over OpenAI’s mission

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OpenAI and other companies in the generative AI space continue to develop and debut innovations at a rapid pace. But all that AI fervor is also generating another bevy of legal battles.

The creator of ChatGPT was hit with several new lawsuits alleging copyright infringement and other concerns, with others accusing the company of putting profit over purpose. Last week, OpenAI was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed jointly by The Intercept, Raw Story and AlterNet, which alleges the company violated copyright laws by using their content to train AI models. A day later, OpenAI and Altman were named in a lawsuit filed by Elon Musk, who alleges Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman violated the contract they made with Musk when the three co-founded the nonprofit nearly a decade ago. According to the complaint, OpenAI has abandoned its nonprofit mission by pursuing business deals that might betray researching AI for the public good. 

“Mr. Musk has long recognized that [artificial general intelligence] poses a grave threat to humanity —perhaps the greatest existential threat we face today,” according to the complaint. “His concerns mirrored those raised before him by luminaries like Stephen Hawking and Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy. Our entire economy is based around the fact that humans work together and come up with the best solutions to a hard task. If a machine can solve nearly any task better than we can, that machine becomes more economically useful than we are.”

The legal battles come as many others are already underway. For example, OpenAI is also fighting numerous cases from The New York Times, the Author’s Guild, and from various authors. 

Regulators also continued putting pressure on OpenAI and other generative AI firms. For example, the FTC recently launched a new inquiry into the relations between tech giants and the AI startups they’ve invested in. The deals are also under scrutiny in Europe including a new investment by the European Union, which is looking into Microsoft’s recent investment in Mistral AI. Meanwhile, the UK’s Competition Markets Authority announced in December that the watchdog was looking into whether Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI impacts competition. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also is looking into OpenAI to see whether the startup misled investors, according to reports last week.

Collectively, the pressure coming from many sides illustrates the myriad challenges for companies that want to use or build generative AI tools. AI also came up in last week’s Supreme Court hearing in two cases about social media moderation. And while the discussions weren’t focused on generative AI, they offer some insight into how the nation’s highest court is thinking about algorithms during a pivotal year. 

Another question that needs to be raised (and eventually answered): Would generative AI be protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the same way that platforms are currently protected from being responsible for content on their platforms?

Other AI news from Digiday

  • IPG is integrating generative AI tools from Adobe into a new marketing platform to help automate and scale content creation.
  • Newsguard debuted a new platform for tracking election-related misinformation, which will be assisted by new automation tools built by NewsGuard and external partners.

Prompts and Products: Other AI news and announcements 

  • AI-generated ads were used to market a new Willy Wonka pop-up in Scotland that left attendees less than impressed. Some even said the difference between the images and the reality felt like false advertising.
  • Mucinex launched a new game called “Mucus Masher,” which uses AI-generated images from Getty Images.
  • Vimeo debuted a new AI-powered hub called Vimeo Central, which will help users create and edit videos using AI, condense lengthy videos into shorter highlights and summaries, and ask the video questions to engage more.
  • Klarna said its new AI assistant can handle as many customer conversations as 700 full-time human agents. Powered by OpenAI’s technology, the assistant handled more than 2 million conversations in the first month, accounting for two-thirds of Klarna’s total volume.
  • MKHSTRY, a marketing collective founded by former Progressive CMO Jeff Charney, debuts a new AI platform called MKHSTRY AI, which aims to help marketers with everything from ideation and strategy to content creation.
  • The enterprise AI startup Writer debuted Palmyra-Vision, a new multimodal large language model with vision capabilities to read handwritten text, classify objects and colors and describe charts.
  • Salesforce debuted Einstein Copilot, an AI assistant designed to help with CRM-related tasks. Meanwhile, Adobe said it’s developing a generative AI tool for creating and editing audio. Another debut came from GoDaddy, which is marketing a new generative AI tool called Airo to help small businesses design websites, email and other content.

Words From Humans: Quotes from interviews last week

  • “If I think of AI-generated content or AI workloads, most or much of that is in the cloud. That introduces concerns about latency, or security or privacy. So we’re overcoming that by bringing that down locally [with on-device AI], not to mention [reducing] the cost of running.” – Tom Butler, Lenovo’s Executive Director of Worldwide Commercial Portfolio and Product Management
  • “As cameras got cheaper, more people got their hands on them. That doesn’t mean everybody now can produce an Oscar-winning film. You still need to be professional and creative, and I think AI and these types of tools will push what creativity means and what originality means.” – Zohar Dayan, Senior Vice President of Product at Vimeo
  • “The good news about building a modern ad tech stack at the moment platform changes are happening is you just build with the new stuff in there [such as AI]. And so our SMBs for example can use generative AI to create copy, which is something I love because it saves them time and makes them much more effective.” – Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor
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