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Example of such a clause in the Creative MLOpen RAIL-M dated August 22, 2022 used by runwayml/stable-diffusion-v1-5:

You agree not to use the Model or Derivatives of the Model:

  • In any way that violates any applicable national, federal, state, local or international law or regulation.

I don't see the point of that clause. I.e., I don't see what would change if the clause were to be deleted. Why do some licenses have a clause stating that one can't violate the law?

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    PSA: It is somewhat questionable whether these models are even subject to copyright protection in the first place. Stability AI did not create any of the training inputs, nor did they make any creative judgments of those inputs as part of the training process, so it is difficult to characterize the model as an original work of authorship. There is some room for a possible "selection or organization" copyright (i.e. they can argue that their choice of training inputs was creative), but it's very much a gray area.
    – Kevin
    May 8, 2023 at 23:04
  • @Kevin I don't know about Stability but it's obvious that a lot of human effort, that could probably be classified as creative, went into ChatGPT. The design of the AI model is also not obvious - where to apply more compute effort and where less. Then again, it could be considered more of a patentable process than a copyrightable creative work.
    – user253751
    May 9, 2023 at 14:13
  • @user253751: Yes, you can make a "selection or organization" argument with respect to hyperparameters etc., but those are rather functional and courts are typically reluctant to extend copyright protection to functional elements, at least in the US. But I agree that it's unclear.
    – Kevin
    May 9, 2023 at 15:05

5 Answers 5

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Because breaking the law is not breach of contract

(Necessarily).

Were you to use the model to 3D-print a gun and rob banks with it, without this clause, you have not broken the contract. That would mean that the provider could neither sue you for any damages the use of their model in your crime spree might have caused them, nor can they legally terminate the licence with you.

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  • Why is a contract needed to recover damages? One does not generally need a contract with someone in order to sue them. If someone legitimately causes monetary damages to your business, I don't quite see why it's helpful for that damage to also be a breach of contract. If you crash a car into a store you can be sued for damages, it's not necessary for you to have signed a contract saying you wouldn't violate traffic laws in order to be sued. May 8, 2023 at 15:16
  • @NuclearHoagie if you rob banks with a 3-D printed gun, you did not harm the maker of the 3-D model. They can't sue you for harm, only for breach of contract.
    – Esther
    May 8, 2023 at 15:39
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    @Esther But what are the damages for breaching a clause like this? I guess my point is that damages are orthogonal to the breach of contract - if you breached the contract but didn't cause damages there's nothing to sue for, and if you caused damages but didn't breach the contract you can sue anyway. In your example the gun designer suffered a breach of contract but no damages, so what are they suing for? May 8, 2023 at 16:06
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    @Esther: If the victim of a robbery were to sue the designer of the 3D model, then any costs associated with that suit should represent damages attributable to the violation of the contract.
    – supercat
    May 8, 2023 at 16:48
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    @Esther You can only sue me if I cause you damage if a) I breach a contract between us or b)I do something illegal. If I open a competing business and take your customers, I’m damaging you but you cant sue me. If I do it in violation of a non-compete contract between us, you can sue me.
    – Dale M
    May 8, 2023 at 21:17
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I don't see the point of that clause

The point is to add a legal disclaimer in case someone uses the open source model for nefarious purposes. It's there for the same reason This software is provided as-is is included in all software licenses - it's a legal statement designed to avoid legal liability from the use of your program by others.

@DaleM mentions "breach of contract" as a possible reason but it's extremely unlikely anyone, anywhere will be able to recover damages as a result of misusing one's open source model. The real reason is to protect the author of the model, not to sue anyone for damages.

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Perhaps, this would protect the company from being sued. Take a flamethrower, for example. If you burn someone's house down, that person might sue you and the flamethrower's manufacturer.

They could say to the manufacturer this framethrower is dangerous! How come you make such a dangerous product? You give us money, also.

The manufacturer can just say, hey we had a contract with him saying he wouldn't do crime with it. Not did we warn him not to burn your house down, we even made him sign a contract saying, he wouldn't do it. What do you want from us? It's just him.

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    For the record, a flamethrower is legal to own in the U.S. and has valid legal purposes (They're very good at dealing with Killer Bees in the parts of the country where they can live up to their name.).
    – hszmv
    May 8, 2023 at 18:11
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    But why is the contract necessary? It's already illegal to burn someone's house down, can't you say "it's just him" without the contract? As a less extreme example, matchbook sellers don't usually include a contract precluding illegal activity with their products. If an arsonist burns something down with matches, I don't expect the matchbook manufacturer would need additional legal protection in the form of a contract. Why does the flamethrower manufacturer? May 8, 2023 at 18:28
  • Flamethrowers are dangerous, I think everyone knows that. However, the more responsibility you can pass to the user that better. People try to sue gun manufacturers, also. They even made a law saying you can't sue the gun makers. It's odd in a way that any object manufacturer can get sued. No matter what object you have, it takes a human to use it wrong. A bomb is only dangerous if a human does something to set it off. The arguments become well this object is too dangerous, a car with bad breaks, etc. The manufacturer wants to prove the user used that object wrong.
    – GC_
    May 8, 2023 at 20:50
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    This, plus it can't hurt to put it in there, so the safe option is to put it in there.
    – Tom
    May 9, 2023 at 5:02
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    The reason you would sue the manufacturer and not the user, is that typically, the manufacturer has more money. If a guy who's broke used the product in an illegal way and you sue him, you're just throwing money away because you'll never see damages ordered.
    – hszmv
    May 9, 2023 at 15:02
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In some jurisdictions (Germany, for example) it can be illegal to create software that is intended for computer sabotage and other illegal purposes. Writing into the license agreement that using the software for illegal purposes is specifically not allowed could be in preparation of a legal defense against an accusation that the software was provided for the purpose of doing something illegal with it.

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I think of two main reasons. The first one is to avoid liability for third party users breaking the law or causing damages using the licensed product. The second one is that the author of the product has moral rights over it and can prohibit anything he wants about its use. Of course it's not always easy to enforce that, but it's there at least.

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