In recent weeks, Apple has embarked on discussions with prominent news and publishing entities, including Condé Nast, NBC News, and IAC, seeking licensing agreements to access their content archives. The company is seeking authorization to incorporate the publishers’ content into its generative AI systems, with proposed licensing agreements exceeding $50 million.
This strategic move by Apple reflects its effort to catch up with industry rivals in the development of generative AI, a technology enabling computers to create images and engage in human-like conversations. Unlike competitors such as Microsoft, OpenAI, Google, and Meta, Apple has maintained a relatively low profile in the public discourse on AI. Despite owning the virtual assistant Siri, Apple’s foray into advanced A.I. has been limited.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, acknowledged ongoing A.I.-related work during a recent analyst call but provided no specific details. While the company has expressed interest in forging partnerships with news publishers, some executives have expressed reservations. Concerns include the expansive terms proposed by Apple, potentially holding publishers liable for legal issues arising from the company’s use of their content.
Apple’s vagueness regarding how it plans to apply generative AI to the news industry adds another layer of uncertainty for publishers. Despite scepticism, some news executives remain optimistic about the prospect of a meaningful partnership with Apple. Notably, Apple distinguishes itself by seeking permission before using publishers’ content, a departure from practices where A.I.-enabled companies secure licensing deals post facto.
Apple’s stance on data accumulation for AI development diverges from some rivals accused of sourcing internet content without creators’ permissions, triggering copyright disputes. The company’s acquisition of Topsy in 2013 saw a request to cease collecting information from Twitter to align with its policy against gathering data on Apple customers who might also use the social media platform.
News executives, wary of AI’s potential impact on reader engagement and advertising revenue, approach such partnerships cautiously, cognizant of preserving their existing business models. The landscape of artificial intelligence has raised alarms among print news organisations, known for cautious engagement, in the wake of online disruptions in the past. However, OpenAI, a key player in AI, emphasises respecting the rights of content creators and owners, highlighting recent collaborative efforts with the American Journalism Project and German publisher Axel Springer.
As Apple navigates negotiations with news publishers, the industry watches closely, recognizing the potential transformative impact of generative AI on the news ecosystem.