Media and Entertainment’s AI ‘Watch List’: 10 Tech Companies to Closely Track | Commentary

May was not a good month for generative AI companies in the eyes of the creative community. OpenAI mimicked Scarlett Johansson’s voice to push CEO Sam Altman’s agenda. Google search introduced AI Overviews to give consumers the information they need without linking them to the publishers who create it. And Apple crushed all of creativity down to a pulp. Literally.

All of this shines the spotlight on the need for the media and entertainment industry, together with all creatives in it, to closely follow accelerating developments in the genAI space and take action to protect their rightful interests. To that end, here is my first generative AI “watch list” – an inauspicious group of 10 companies to track and keep the heat on in order to move to a more ethically and legally sourced — not to mention, fairly compensated — genAI world. Consider this my first generative “hall of shAIme.”

1. OpenAI

Altman’s ScarJo debacle was just his latest, and the departure of the company’s “ethical AI” leadership team certainly didn’t help. OpenAI trains its generative AI – including Hollywood and big brand focused video generator Sora – on vast libraries of copyrighted works. Even Google voiced its displeasure, pointing out that Sora trained on over one million YouTube videos. Remember, Altman launched OpenAI as a non-profit with a mission to develop AI that “benefits all of humanity.” How things have changed. Its non-profit “do good” mentality seems like a distant memory. At this point, it’s tough to trust Altman, which perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising since he co-founded OpenAI with Elon Musk.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft is guilty by association, since it essentially owns OpenAI. The tech giant is by far its biggest investor, and OpenAI is dependent on its cloud infrastructure. CEO Satya Nadella certainly knows about OpenAI’s ethical AI issues, yet he is largely credited for saving Altman’s CEO seat after more ethically minded OpenAI board members ousted him. That’s why Microsoft finds itself embroiled in massive copyright infringement litigation, together with OpenAI. Microsoft has profited the most so far from generative AI amongst Big Tech titans, as reflected in its near $3.1 trillion market cap. Now it’s time for the most valuable company in the world to equitably share in its value creation with the creative community that enabled it.

3. Google

Google finds itself next on this list amongst Big Tech giants because it is hell bent on overwhelming us with generative AI across all of its services, whether they are ready for prime time or not. Its new search AI Overviews feature — which, in one notorious example, was found to recommend eating rocks to get the nutrients you need — likely will lead to significantly less traffic to the publisher content that enables it. It may also open up Google to endless product liability if users do, in fact, ingest rocks! A strong case can be made that Section 230 doesn’t absolve Google from its AI Overview results, since it is now directly responsible for curating them.

CEO Sundar Pichai also recently joined Altman’s AI video generator party with Google’s own video generator, Veo (funny, since Veoh was the name of YouTube’s biggest rival back in the day; remember, there are no coincidences). Just like Microsoft, Google unabashedly trains its AI on copyrighted works without consent and compensation. That makes it deserving for inclusion here.

Sundar Pichai
Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai (Getty Images)

4. Meta

It should come as no surprise for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team to find themselves on this inaugural list, since respect for the creative community has never been a hallmark. Meta doesn’t disappoint in its casual indifference to creatives in this AI context. When Meta found itself falling behind and needed to move fast to catch up to OpenAI with its own generative AI development, stakeholders internally cautioned that consent would be needed to scrape copyrighted works. But all of that was cast aside by business exigencies. Meta knew what it was doing but went forward anyway. Move first fast. Ask for forgiveness later.

5. Suno

This much heralded venture backed company, which just closed a fresh investment round of $125 million at a $500 million valuation, is the first generative music company that finds itself on this list. Suno certainly is impressive, enabling anyone to create professionally sounding music tracks in seconds simply by text prompting. The problem is that, just like the Big Tech giants it emulates, its AI almost certainly trains on endless streams of copyrighted music. I’ve asked if this is true several times and received no confirmation. But one of the company’s early investors, Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners, isn’t so coy.  “Honestly if we had deals with labels when this company got started, I probably wouldn’t have invested in it,” he told Rolling Stone. “They needed to make this product without the constraints.”

That pretty much sums it up for most generative AI companies and their investors — who find dealing with artists and licensing to be needless, pesky “constraints.” Musicians should be aware of this pervasive attitude, not to mention the coming flood of generative AI music. They can’t stop it. But they should be compensated when their music is used to train it.

6. ElevenLabs

ElevenLabs is a high-profile venture capital backed generative voice AI unicorn, and yet another one that builds its value on the backs of the creative community. It too reportedly scrapes endless streams of copyrighted works to fuel its genAI dreams (I’ve asked for comment here several times too). To add insult to injury, even high-profile artists count themselves as investors. Musician is one closely aligned with the company, recently telling a crowd at an industry event that the music industry “is technology.” Wrong. Tech most certainly expands and empowers much of it. But artists and their songs are at the center of the music universe. At least they should be.

7. Fable Studio

This Bay Area startup just announced its new “Showrunner” platform to enable anyone to easily write, voice and animate shows using generative AI. The only problem is this — and it’s the same old, same old — Fable Studio’s AI is trained on “publicly available data.” Yes, those same three words again, and we all know what that likely means – copyrighted works. I reached out to CEO Edward Saatchi for comment and received none back. If copyrighted works are ingested without consent and compensation, that’s not innovation. That’s outright “taking” in my book, even if the taker here previously won an Emmy for innovation in interactive media.

Saatchi says he wants to be “the Netflix of AI.” But I just watched the new HBO documentary “MoviePass, Movie Crash” and was reminded that its CEO wanted to be “the Netflix of movie theaters” — and that Netflix comparison certainly didn’t age well.

8. Adobe

Adobe, which prides itself as widely serving the creative community, launched its Firefly generative AI product with so much ethically sourced AI promise, assuring its users that all of its training data had been licensed. The only problem is that it wasn’t. It was later revealed that Adobe trained Firefly, at least in part, on images used by image generator Midjourney, which too finds itself embroiled in major copyright infringement litigation. Oops.

On Monday, TheWrap encountered Adobe’s latest Terms of Use for its Creative Cloud suite of programs, which includes Photoshop and video editor Premiere Pro, in which Adobe “clarified” that it may access users’ “content through both automated and manual methods, such as for content review.”

9. Andreessen Horowitz

If there’s one venture capital firm to closely watch in the world of generative AI — which is actively promoting its overall damn the torpedoes mentality — it’s this one. Andreessen Horowitz counts OpenAI, ElevenLabs and several other genAI leaders on its roster, at least several of which deserve to be admonished for their sheer indifference to unlicensed taking. Sy Damle, a lawyer representing Andreessen, reportedly said this last year in discussion about AI and copyright law: “The only practical way for the tools to exist is if they can be trained on massive amounts of data without having to license that data.”

Let’s give an honorable mention to Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners for his shameless disregard for creative IP with respect to Suno (which I reference above). I doubt he’d be so cavalier if competitors stole Suno’s code and genAI “special sauce.” He’d certainly impose “constraints” there.

10. Apple

Et tu, Apple? Its tone deaf “Crush” video ad — in which a trash compactor pummels the world of creativity down into an ultrathin iPad — underscored Big Tech’s indifference to the creative community’s justifiable concerns about generative AI. If Apple — the most artist-friendly of all Big Tech companies — let this ad fly, what does it reveal about how all of Big Tech and Silicon Valley feel about the value of content and media and entertainment IP?

We know the answer. They feel that creative works are simply the fuel they need to build their next trillions. That’s why these 10 are on this initial watch list. And that’s why the creative community should closely follow the continuing conduct of these companies and ask tough questions all along the way.

To be sure, generative AI is here to stay and will transform the media and entertainment industry. But the arrogance of the companies leading the charge need not be. It’s not about stopping generative AI. It’s just about consent and fair compensation for the content that enables it – in other words, ethically sourced AI.

Some generative AI companies actually believe in that. Those that do — like Promethean AI, a tool for creatives to manage all of their own IP assets — should be elevated and celebrated because of it. I’ll highlight more of those ethically sourced AI companies in upcoming columns.

Reach out to Peter at For those of you interested in learning more, sign up to his “the brAIn” newsletter, visit his firm Creative Media at, and follow him on Threads @pcsathy.

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