Ask Dr. Copyright

Dear Doc:

All this new artificial intelligence on the Internet looks like it can make life easier for authors. Why not have some help writing a first draft? Does the use of a system like ChatGPT have any effect on legal rights?

Not an AI

Dear NAAI:

You sure stepped into the middle of a legal minefield with that question! When the Doc asked ChatGPT-4, here is what it said:

As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to affect legal rights or provide legal advice. My responses are generated based on patterns in language data and do not constitute legal advice or create a client-lawyer relationship. It is important to consult with a licensed attorney or legal professional for any legal advice or assistance.

So I guess that the Ol’ Doc will continue to have a role in answering legal questions, huh?

According to the United States Copyright Office, authors risk losing copyright if AI-generated content is not disclosed when applying for registration. In a new guidance document, the Copyright Office said that when registering works, authors must distinguish which content is human-authored and which content is AI-generated. If applicants aren’t sure how to refer to the AI-generated content, the Copyright Office recommends providing a general statement that the work contains AI-generated content. That will prompt the office to follow up to help each author fill in the blanks in an application.

That may sound easy enough, but like many legal issues, there is a double-edged sword here. If you disclose using an AI, you may be opening yourself up to charges of copyright infringement! That is because there is still an unsettled question regarding the legality of using materials from the Internet and elsewhere to train a machine-learning system. Some commentators think that’s fully OK, but others, particularly visual artists, say that using their images to train an AI is an infringement, and that any output of the AI that is trained using their images is also an infringement.

The Copyright Office seems to know that it is behind the 8-ball when it comes to AI issues. It has opened a special webpage on this issue and will hold “listening sessions” in the coming months to gain a variety of perspectives on these complicated issues.

As to the Doc’s views on the use of AI in a professional setting, let’s just say that the Doc thinks that the technology should be called “artificial stupidity.” That is because the Doc asked ChatGPT to write his biography. The results were, in a word, laughable. The AI could not get a single fact right…from the location of the Doc’s birth, to his alma mater, to memberships in organizations and professional positions…every single “fact” was about as factual as a Tucker Carlson monologue. The Doc thinks that AI is not about to take over the world any time soon.

Have a work that you want to register for copyright? The attorneys at LWH are here to help. Give them a call, and remember, friends don’t let friends register the output of ChatGPT.

Until next month, 

The “Doc”

— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.