Big Tech vs Content Creators: Gloves Off

Big Tech vs Content Creators: Gloves Off

Also Google Bard getting an upgrade, and customers avoiding vendor lock-in

Looking ahead in 2024, this year might just go down in history as the start of AI's heyday – a time when our clever machines started churning out everything from news pieces to artworks. It's pretty wild to think that AI could give human creativity a run for its money. But there's a real issue under all that sparkle: there is a growing concern that the rewards of this tech boom aren't exactly spread out evenly.

Take the recent lawsuits by content creators, from media giants like the New York Times to smaller voices like the Helena World Chronicle, against OpenAI and Google. The accusation? Unethical appropriation of intellectual property, using millions of articles, videos, and artistic works to train AI models like ChatGPT and Bard without fair compensation:

A new class action lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court in D.C. accuses Google and parent company Alphabet of anticompetitive behavior in violation of U.S. antitrust law, the Sherman Act, and others, on behalf of news publishers. The case, filed by Arkansas-based publisher Helena World Chronicle, argues that Google “siphons off” news publishers’ content, their readers and ad revenue through anticompetitive means. It also specifically cites new AI technologies like Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and Bard AI chatbot as worsening the problem.
In the complaint, Helena World Chronicle, which owns and publishes two weekly newspapers in Arkansas, argues that Google is “starving the free press” by sharing publishers’ content on Google, losing them “billions of dollars.” (source: TechCrunch)

Meanwhile, the New York Times has gone on the offensive against OpenAI and Microsoft, the creators of ChatGPT, accusing them of "copyright infringement":

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on Wednesday, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.
The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular A.I. platforms, over copyright issues associated with its written works. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, contends that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information. (source: New York Times)

The undeniable reality we face is a paradigm shift in the digital landscape, one that might surpass even the iPhone moment. For decades, Big Tech has demostrated the ability to capitalize on third party content, leveraging their work to feed their algorithms and generate ad revenue. Search engines, once gateways to diverse voices, became walled gardens, funneling users back to proprietary platforms.

Then came AI, the ultimate content curator. The impact extends beyond traditional media. Chatbots like ChatGPT or Google’s Bard, by providing answers directly, bypass the websites of creators, severing a crucial revenue stream. This shift is a stark departure from the promise of the internet as a space of discovery and engagement with diverse content sources.

“We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible,” Google co-founder Larry Page said in 2004. Fast forward to today, and that ethos of openness seems a distant memory. Now, the digital landscape is dominated by the commodification of user data, with content creators serving as fuel for the engine.

There is little wonder then why we are starting to see legal actions coming from content creators. Ultimately though, this boils down to a matter of sharing of the pie. OpenAI is now offering media publisher between $1 million to 5 million to strike deals to use their content. Will that be enough?

Bard catching up

Google is reportedly working on an upgraded version of Bard, called "Bard Advanced," powered by a more powerful AI model and offered through a paid subscription to Google One. This "more capable" version would offer advanced math and reasoning skills, potentially unlocking new features like creating custom bots and AI-powered prompt expansion. The potential cost of Bard Advanced within Google One's subscription tiers remains unclear.

Avoiding vendor lock-in is real

As reported by the WSJ, OpenAI's recent internal shake-up has prompted customers to diversify their reliance on technology providers, and competitors to see an opening.

While OpenAI remains a leader in the generative AI field, their November turbulence sparked a conversation about potential risks of relying too heavily on any single provider. As a result, many companies are now taking steps to spread their AI eggs across multiple baskets, exploring options from rivals like Google, Anthropic, and even internally developed platforms.

What does this mean: this diversification in AI model usage reflects a broader trend in technology, similar to the evolution of the cloud computing market, where initially dominant players like Amazon faced growing competition from well-funded rivals such as Microsoft and Google.