Since making its debut in November of 2022, ChatGPT has been making headlines for its potential to revolutionize the way we communicate and access information. In essence, ChatGPT is a "chatbot" that can simulate human conversation by applying artificial intelligence (AI) to text or voice commands. We are all familiar with chatbots, which have been used for years in applications ranging from customer service assistance to the iPhone voice assistant, Siri.
Until now, there have been limits to what these AI chatbots can do. However, ChatGPT’s skill at producing text appears to be infinite. It can write well-researched articles, essays, short stories, and songs. Simply type a question into its search bar, and it will provide a detailed answer almost instantaneously.
That said, there may be one limitation to using content generated by ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence: the possible legal repercussions. There are risks that AI chatbots could violate laws related to the intellectual property areas of copyright and trademark, as well as other areas such as employment law.
Infringing on the Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property covers any original work of authorship, design, or invention. Intellectual property law protects these unique productions through copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents.
Copyright law protects original works of authorship that are tangible forms of expression. When an author, artist, or other creator produces an original work, they own the copyright to it. This means that only the creator of a work or someone who has obtained permission from the creator can legally reproduce, distribute, or use the work in certain ways.
ChatGPT’s ability to generate original written content raises questions about the potential for copyright infringement. As a language model, ChatGPT is trained on a large dataset of text. Although it generates responses in a human-like way, the output is not considered an original creation of the human mind. Therefore, it is not protected by copyright law and can be used freely.
However, because content created by AI is derived from content that has been previously generated by others, there is a real possibility that ChatGPT content may be similar to existing copyrighted material. An AI user may unwittingly infringe on someone’s copyright if he or she publishes a response that resembles an existing work too closely.
For example, if a response includes a quote or image from a copyrighted book, the quote or image is protected by copyright. The same is true if the AI-generated content includes a trademarked brand name or logo. The person using ChatGPT to generate content that infringes on existing copyrights could be held liable for infringement. In order to avoid infringing on the copyright or trademark, the person or entity using the quote, brand name, or logo would need permission from the holder or a license to use the content in a specific way.
Unfortunately, ChatGPT does not have the capability to determine if its answers infringe on copyright laws. This means it is the responsibility of the user to ensure that their use of ChatGPT's responses complies with relevant laws and regulations.
Who Owns the Content Produced by ChatGPT?
The answer to this question is not entirely clear. On one hand, the creators of the source material ChatGPT draws could have some claim to the copyright in the generated content. However, it could be argued that OpenAI, which created the model, should have the copyright. The rights of ownership of AI-generated works will be an issue that continues to evolve along with regulatory changes and case law, but one thing is clear: the content will not be owned by the AI itself. Because AI cannot be recognized as an author and does not have a legal personality, U.S. law prohibits it from owning a copyright.
When using content generated by ChatGPT or another AI system, keep in mind that infringing on intellectual property rights can have legal consequences. It is illegal to reproduce copyrighted material without the permission of the original creator, and violating copyright laws can result in significant penalties including fines and damages. If you have concerns, please contact us at 973.707.3322 or LFarber@LFarberLaw.com.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.