Cook: “We are big supporters of the AI Act”

Iberian Lawyer’s exclusive interview with the manager, lawyer and vice president of Microsoft, Antony Cook. “The human being must remain at the center of technology”

by giusseppe Salemme

«I asked it to write a software license agreement, and within seconds he returned a five-page draft. When you see what it does, only then you realize that the world is about to change». Realizing that even Antony Cook, Microsoft’s vice president, did not fully understand the transformative scope of artificial intelligence until he saw ChatGpt at work can be alienating.

Some might even worry: how can there be no difference between the reaction of us mere mortals and that of a professional who has worked for more than two decades at one of the world’s largest and most important tech companies? In another sense, this can even be reassuring: after all, it proves that, perhaps for the first time, we are really all in the same boat; and that, in addressing AI’s challenges, putting the broadest concept of humanity at the center of all reasoning will be a must.

However, we also must admit that it is already hard enough for us human beings to keep up with everything that has happened in the 12 months since that collective “wow moment”. Just in the last few weeks of 2023, we have seen the European Union reaching a first agreement on the basic principles of the coming AI Act and witnessed the soap opera connected with OpenAi co-founder Sam Altman’s sacking and reinstatement. Not to mention the world’s first regulatory text written entirely by AI (in Brazil) and Gemini, a new Gpt competitor presented (rather clumsily) by Google.

We’ve also watched as Copilot, Microsoft’s intelligent assistant, was gradually being integrated into Windows operating systems and Office applications: with this new tool, the Redmond-based company promises to speed up and simplify the creation and editing of documents, while also standing by its users against any claims of potential copyright infringement in the assistant’s outputs.

Antony Cook, who is also Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, has obviously been involved in taking care of the legal issues related to Copilot and his “copyright commitment”. Australian, he began practicing law in Sydney in the mid-1990s, a time of deregulation, when he came into contact with the telecommunications world; later, he worked for Freshfields in Hong Kong, where he specialized in the freshly born e-commerce sector.

«Later I went to work for Bt Looksmart, a joint venture of British Telecom» Cook tells Iberian Lawyer. «It was one of the first Internet search services: it was powered by a team of librarians who catalogued web pages».

That doesn’t sound like a solid business model…

It wasn’t (he laughs, ed). Algorithmic search became predominant shortly after. But I learned many lessons about the startup phase of a business.

When did you join Microsoft?

Right after that. I have been at Microsoft for 21 years-I started as a commercial lawyer focused mainly on IP and licensing issues. Now I divide my time between broader policy issues and mora classic legal tasks.


Julia Gil