OpenAI gathered lawyers as litigation, regulatory risks increased.

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As OpenAI’s top executives mingled with world leaders last summer — with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron touting the benefits of its ChatGPT — comedian Sarah Silverman told the company She was preparing to be taken to court.

Silverman’s suit, which alleged the company stole his work when it used his memoir, “The Bad Waiter,” to train its artificial intelligence product, has sparked a legal blitz in recent months. was on the verge of

OpenAI has faced more than a dozen high-profile lawsuits and government investigations since Silverman’s complaint. Top writers, including the New York Times’ Judy Picoult, and media companies have also alleged that the company violates copyright law by training algorithms that power popular services like ChatGPT. Billionaire Elon Musk sued OpenAI for deviating from its original non-profit mission. And government agencies in the United States and Europe are investigating whether the company violated competition, securities and consumer protection laws in a number of regulatory investigations.

“It might be a good thing Chet GPT has a lawyer because a lot of people are taking him to court,” Silverman said during a November segment on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Under siege, OpenAI is turning to some of the world’s top legal and political human minds. he has. LinkedIn has hired about two dozen in-house lawyers since March 2023 to work on other issues, including copyright, according to a Washington Post analysis. The company has posted a job for an antitrust lawyer — with a salary of up to $300,000 — to handle increased scrutiny in the United States and Europe of its partnership with Microsoft. It has also retained some of the top US law firms, including Cooley and Morrison Foerster, to represent it in key cases.

According to a person familiar with the matter, OpenAIL is in advanced talks to hire Chris Lehane, a former press secretary for Gore’s presidential campaign and architect of Airbnb’s public policy efforts, who has spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the conversation. OpenAI plans to lean heavily in the coming months on the idea that U.S. AI companies are a formidable weapon against China, supporting U.S. economic and national security interests. Against an increasingly aggressive foreign power — a strategy once deployed by Facebook parent Meta in an effort to align itself more closely with the Trump White House.

Lehane positioned Airbnb as supporting the aspirations of everyday entrepreneurs, amid heated regulatory disputes with cities across the country. In another sign of OpenAI’s mature political strategy, the company joined the industry trade group TechNet this year.

The rapid expansion points to a new reality: OpenAI is at war.

The company is on the defensive amid lawsuits, investigations and potential legislation that threaten its goal of building the world’s most powerful AI. That posture is a dramatic shift from just a year ago, when Washington lawmakers were impressed by ChetGPT’s potential and the political acumen of the company’s CEO, Sam Altman.

“Everyone thinks of us as Big Tech,” said Chi Chang, OpenAI’s general counsel. But Chang says the company isn’t far from startup mode, adding that it only has 200 employees in 2022.

OpenAI now has a total of about 1,000 employees, he said, and the legal team has been part of that rapid growth. He jokes that ChatGPT has come of age in the months since its release, but calls the growing legal challenges “relatively commensurate with our impact on the world.”

“I’m sympathetic to the point that a lot of people say, ‘Look, I was just minding my own business and this AI revolution happened,'” Chang said. “Naturally, some of this is going to be negative.”

Such an evolution is part of a pattern in Silicon Valley, where companies initially celebrated for their technological breakthroughs eventually face legal and political backlash for their products’ dangerous downsides.

“Congratulations, you’re in the big leagues,” said Bradley Tusk, Uber’s first political adviser and fixer for startups in heavily regulated industries. “They’re the market leader in this completely revolutionary thing, which is very exciting but also means it’s going to be controversial for a really long time.”

But even for the fast-paced tech world, OpenAI evolved quickly. Other companies’ products were available for years or decades before being drawn to Washington regulators or legal challenges from celebrities and legacy companies. It’s been less than 18 months since ChatGPT was released.

Apple’s iPhone empire expanded with little interruption for nearly 17 years until last month, when the Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging it had an illegal phone monopoly. Google was 22 years old when the agency hit the company with its first historic antitrust case in 2020. Even Facebook — with its notorious ties to Washington lawmakers — was launched on college campuses 13 years before its fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the 2016 election. his reputation.

OpenAI has had mixed success in copyright suits so far. A judge dismissed many of the claims in Silverman’s lawsuit, but allowed some key allegations about whether OpenAI copied the work of comedians and other writers to stand. Silverman and the authors re-filed their complaint last month.

As copyright matters continue, OpenAI is also embroiled in litigation with its co-founder and now competitor, Musk. He sued the company that year, alleging it had strayed from its nonprofit mission. They requested a court order requiring OpenAI to follow “a longstanding practice of making the AI ​​research and technology developed at OpenAI available to the public” instead of keeping it proprietary.

The company’s gloves are off. OpenAI responded by publishing old emails that say Musk tried to take control of the startup and try to merge it with his car company, Tesla. In a court filing last week, OpenAI asked a judge to dismiss the billionaire’s claims, calling his lawsuit “150 paragraphs of self-congratulatory and revisionist history.”

OpenAI is also at the center of several regulatory investigations, which has forced the company to spend even more on legal help. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether investors were misled during the tumultuous period after Altman briefly left the company. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether it violated consumer protection laws in several areas, including data leaks and false claims by ChatGPT. And the commission has discussed with the Justice Department which agency should investigate its multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft, amid concerns that such deals are undermining competition in the fast-growing AI market. are

Anna Makanjo, the company’s head of global affairs, said in a Washington Post Live interview that the company’s increased regulatory scrutiny should be “reassuring” in some ways because it shows that governments have a better understanding of the challenges posed by artificial intelligence. A number of mechanisms are already in place to deal with .

“Sometimes there’s a feeling that because this technology is new, we’re not quite ready and there’s really no way to control it,” he said. “There are a number of regulators who already have the authority to take action against harms caused by AI.”

Meanwhile, governments around the world are rapidly creating laws to respond to AI. Last month, the European Union passed its AI Act, which will put new dents in the technology in the coming years. Similar efforts are lagging behind in the United States, but a bipartisan group of senators is expected to release a plan for AI legislation in the near future. Chang says he’s hopeful that more guidance from policymakers can help answer some of the legal questions facing the industry.

“It’s the beginning of a loud reaction,” he said. “It’s never going to go away, but I think the initial shock and fear will calm down a little bit.”

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