Home Artificial Intelligence Thomson Reuters AI copyright dispute must go to trial, judge says

Thomson Reuters AI copyright dispute must go to trial, judge says

by Joey De Leon

Thomson Reuters, a leading information services company, is taking legal action against Ross Intelligence, accusing the company of unlawfully copying content from its legal-research platform Westlaw to train a competing AI-based platform. The lawsuit, which will be decided by a jury, is one of the first cases related to the unauthorized use of data to train AI systems.

Other tech companies, including Meta Platforms, Stability AI, and Microsoft-backed OpenAI, are also facing similar lawsuits from copyright owners over the use of their work to train generative AI software. These cases highlight the ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of copyrighted material in AI training.

Thomson Reuters filed the lawsuit against Ross Intelligence in 2020, alleging that the company copied Westlaw’s “headnotes” to develop its AI-based legal search engine. Headnotes are summaries of points of law in court opinions. Thomson Reuters claims that Ross misused thousands of these headnotes to train its platform.

Ross Intelligence argues that it made fair use of the Westlaw material because it used the headnotes only as a means to locate judicial opinions and did not compete in the market for the materials themselves. On the other hand, Thomson Reuters contends that Ross copied the materials to create a direct competitor to Westlaw.

During the pretrial phase, both companies asked for summary judgment in their favor. However, U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas ruled that a jury should decide the case, including the fair use question and the extent of Thomson Reuters’ copyright protection in the headnotes. Bibas noted that there were factors that favored each side in the fair use analysis.

One key question in this case is whether Ross transformed the Westlaw material into a brand-new research platform that serves a different purpose, which is often a crucial consideration in fair use cases. The judge also acknowledged the hotly debated question of whether it is in the public interest to allow AI to be trained with copyrighted material.

The outcome of this case will have significant implications for the use of copyrighted material in training AI systems. It will also shape the legal landscape surrounding AI and intellectual property rights. No trial date has been set for the case, and both companies are awaiting the opportunity to present their evidence and arguments before a jury.

Thomson Reuters’ lawsuit against Ross Intelligence underscores the importance of protecting intellectual property rights in the era of AI. As AI continues to advance, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines and regulations to address the ethical and legal challenges posed by the use of copyrighted material in AI training.

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