Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has expressed concerns about potential devaluation of billions of dollars in AI investments if companies engaged in developing the technology are compelled to pay for copyrighted data essential to its functionality.
In comments submitted to the US Copyright Office, the VC firm emphasized the substantial scale of AI investments and cautioned that any new regulations pertaining to the content used for training models could significantly disrupt the investment community’s plans and expectations regarding the technology.
In their statement, a16z asserted, “The bottom line is this: Imposing the cost of actual or potential copyright liability on the creators of AI models will either kill or significantly hamper their development.” The US Copyright Office is currently deliberating on new rules specifically addressing the tech industry’s unrestricted use of owned and copyrighted content for training large language models (LLMs).
A16z argued that the only practical method for training LLMs involves extensive reliance on copyrighted content, encompassing “something approaching the entire corpus of the written word” and “an enormous cross-section of all publicly available information ever published on the internet.”
The VC firm, having invested in numerous AI companies and startups, underscored the crucial role of their expectation that copyrighted content would remain available as training data through “fair use” without payment.
The firm contended that undermining these expectations could jeopardize future investments, as well as the economic competitiveness and national security of the United States. A16z commended the current US copyright system for achieving a balanced approach between “protection expression” and supporting “non-exploitative” uses of copyrighted material.
Rather than hastily enacting legislation explicitly addressing AI, a16z suggested that the US Copyright Office fully embrace it. The firm emphasized the urgency of staying competitive in areas like cybersecurity, intelligence operations, and modern warfare, which are being transformed by AI technology.
Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the firm, known for his optimistic views on technology, previously stated that any slowdown in AI development could be considered “murder” due to its potential medical benefits.
Despite this, a16z clarified that their primary concern in their comments to the US Copyright Office is financial, asserting that payment for all copyrighted material used in LLMs would impose substantial costs, potentially ranging from tens to hundreds of billions of dollars annually in royalty payments.
Highlighting the financial divide, a16z pointed out that while the largest tech companies might afford to license copyrighted training data, smaller startups, predominantly supported by the VC firm, could be excluded from the development race entirely.
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