February 24, 2024

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Apple is exploring AI deals with news publishers

Apple is exploring AI deals with news publishers

Apple has opened negotiations in recent weeks with major news and publishing organizations, seeking permission to use their materials in the company's development of generative artificial intelligence systems, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

The tech giant has floated multi-year deals worth at least $50 million to license the archive of news articles, said the people familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations. News organizations contacted by Apple include Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue and The New Yorker; NBC News; and IAC, which owns People, The Daily Beast, and Better Homes and Gardens.

The negotiations represent one early example of how Apple is trying to catch up with rivals in the race to develop generative artificial intelligence, which allows computers to create photos and chat like humans. The technology, which AI experts refer to as neural networks, is created by using large sets of digital images or text to recognize patterns. For example, by analyzing thousands of pictures of cats, a computer can learn how to recognize cats.

Microsoft, OpenAI, Google, Meta, and other companies have released chatbots and other products built on this technology. These tools can change the way people work and generate billions of dollars in sales.

But Apple has been absent from the public discussion of artificial intelligence, and its virtual assistant Siri has remained largely stagnant in the decade since its launch.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. During a call with analysts last month, CEO Tim Cook said Apple had “ongoing” work related to artificial intelligence but declined to go into detail.

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Some publishers approached by Apple were lukewarm about the offer. After years of on-and-off business deals with technology companies such as Meta, which owns Facebook, publishers have become wary of doing business with Silicon Valley.

Many publishing executives were concerned that Apple's terms were too broad, according to three people familiar with the negotiations. The initial offering covered a broad license to publisher archives of published content, with publishers potentially exposed to any legal liabilities that might arise from Apple's use of their content.

Apple has also been vague about how it intends to apply generative AI to the news industry, a potential competitive risk given Apple's large audience for news on its devices, the people said.

However, some news executives were optimistic that Apple's approach could eventually lead to a meaningful partnership. Two people familiar with the discussions sounded a positive note about the deal's long-term prospects, comparing Apple's approach to asking for permission with the behavior of other AI-enabled companies, which have been accused of seeking licensing deals with news organizations after doing so. has already used its content to train its generative models.

In recent years, Apple executives have been discussing how to collect the data needed to build generative AI products, according to two people familiar with the work. Some of its competitors have been accused of taking written material online without obtaining permission from the artists, writers, and programmers who created it, resulting in numerous copyright lawsuits.

Apple has been reluctant to take information from the Internet, in part because of its commitment to privacy. After its acquisition of social analytics startup Topsy in 2013, Apple's leadership asked Topsy to stop collecting information from Twitter, saying doing so violated the company's policy against collecting data on Apple customers, who might also post that information on the social media site. . Two people said.

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The explosion in AI has raised concerns among news managers, many of whom worry that generative AI products like OpenAI's ChatGPT could attract readers who might otherwise consume their news on platforms for their subscribers and advertisers.

Print news organizations, which decades ago saw their lucrative classifieds businesses decimated by online competitors, have been particularly wary about striking deals with AI organizations, treading carefully with a focus on preserving their existing businesses.

In a statement, an OpenAI spokesperson said the company respects “the rights of content creators and owners and believes they should benefit from AI technology,” citing its recent deals with the American Journalism Project and German publisher Axel Springer.

“We are optimistic that we will continue to find mutually beneficial ways to work together to support a rich news ecosystem,” an OpenAI spokesperson said.