ChatGPT may have corrupted the internet

Friday, February 17, 2023 5:00 am

ChatGPT is regularly unavailable at peak times due to demand. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Kim Kardashian would be jealous of the attention ChatGPT, the AI ​​content creator from tech company OpenAI, is getting. Every newspaper writes about it, cover of Time Magazine. The reality TV star once wanted to “break the internet” with a picture of her curves, but the chatbot may have just usurped her.

A multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment package from Microsoft in late January, quickly followed by the launch of its first subscription-based service, this is a company with massive latent potential poised for rapid growth and profitability. “The next great wave of computing,” as described by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, is equal parts exciting and unnerving, and companies will no doubt consider the commercial opportunities that such sophisticated content automation could open up for them.

Microsoft hopes it can level the playing field between Bing and Google. But ChatGPT has applications for a whole range of business functions, from creating marketing and social media content to creating technical manuals and contracts to keep us lawyers on our toes.

Less well thought out, however, are the legal ramifications of using this type of technology – of which there are many.

AI-generated content is blurring the lines when it comes to who owns a work when it’s finished. Even a platform as sophisticated as ChatGPT relies on what it finds online and what is fed to it while using it to learn from and base its output on. With a less sophisticated AI, there is even a risk that the system could copy something that came before.

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This makes the question of who owns that content much more complex than with a bespoke piece of intellectual property created by a human – either as an individual or on behalf of an organization.

In UK law, the first and most obvious answer is that the person or organization that developed the AI ​​system owns the intellectual property rights to the content they create. However, if the AI ​​is refined and trained with other datasets or input from another user, that person also has a claim.

It becomes even harder to prove ownership when you’re using someone else’s AI-as-a-Service – for example, if you’re one of those intrepid digital frontiers who are about to join ChatGPT’s new £16-a-month subscription service to use. The contract for the use of such systems will be key to ensure ownership of intellectual property created by the AI ​​is clear.

Training an AI often requires feeding huge amounts of data into the program so it can digest, learn, and improve its linguistic accuracy. These datasets may be protected by copyright and database rights, which means that using them to train the AI ​​without a license could violate the intellectual property rights of the database owner.

UK law is changing to make commercial text and data mining easier, but it won’t be a panacea. Companies need to be careful with the datasets they use to train AIs and seek permission when necessary.

There is also a risk of defamation – if the AI ​​content is based on false and harmful information about an individual or a company – or claims of negligence if a company uses the AI ​​to provide information or advice to customers. If this advice turned out to be wrong or inaccurate and resulted in loss or damage, the customer could well claim a case of negligence.

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The head of Microsoft might be right, and we’re about to enter an exciting era in computing. But we also have to acknowledge that this brave new AI-enabled world has its pitfalls. There are countless legal gray areas with computer-generated content, which while not necessarily deal breakers, must be carefully considered by any business wishing to use an AI copywriter instead of a human one.

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