Perplexity copied our story about how Perplexity is a shit machine


“The only time they’ll get into trouble is if they inaccurately summarize the story and make it appear defamatory when it wasn’t before. That’s something they’ll really be at legal risk for, especially if they don’t clearly credit the original source and people can’t easily go to that source and check,” he says. “If Perplexity’s edits are what make the story appear defamatory, then 230 doesn’t cover it, under a lot of the case law that interprets it.”

In one case WIRED found that Perplexity’s chatbot falsely claimed, though prominently linking to the original source, that WIRED had reported that a specific police officer in California had committed a crime. (“We’ve been very clear that the answers won’t be 100% accurate every time and could cause confusion,” Srinivas said in response to questions for a story we ran earlier this week. “But a core aspect of our mission is to continue improving accuracy and user experience.”)

Grimmelmann says, “If you want to be formal, I think this is a set of claims that could be pursued with a motion to dismiss based on a number of theories. Not to say it will ultimately win, but if the facts prove true the allegations made by Forbes and Wired, the police officers—the potential plaintiffs—are things that, if proven and the other facts are bad for Perplexity, could result in liability.”

Not all experts agree with Grimmelmann. Pam Samuelson, a professor of law and information at UC Berkeley, wrote in an email that copyright infringement is “using another person’s expression in a way that impairs the author’s ability to receive reasonable remuneration for the value of the unauthorized use. Taking a sentence literally is probably not infringement.”

Bhamati Viswanathan, a faculty fellow at New England Law, says she doubts the summary passes the threshold of substantial similarity typically required for a successful infringement claim, though she doesn’t think that’s the end of the matter. “It certainly shouldn’t pass the sniff test,” she wrote in an email. “I would argue that it should be enough to push your case past the threshold for dismissal — especially given all the indications you had that the actual material was being copied.”

Overall, however, he argues that focusing on the narrow technical merits of such claims may not be the right way to think about things, since tech companies may adjust their behavior to honor the letter of old copyright laws while still grossly violating their purpose. He believes that an entirely new legal framework may be necessary to correct market distortions and promote the underlying objectives of US intellectual property law, which include allowing people to benefit financially from original creative work such as journalism so that they are incentivized to create it – in theory, with a benefit to society.

“In my view, there are strong arguments to support the intuition that generative AI is based on massive copyright infringement,” she writes. “The starting question is, where do we go from there? And the bigger question in the long run is, how do we ensure that creators and creative economies survive? The irony is that AI is teaching us that creativity is more valuable and in demand than ever before. But when we recognize this, we see the potential to undermine and ultimately destroy the ecosystems that enable creators to earn a livelihood from their work. That is the puzzle we need to solve — not eventually, but now.”


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