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Editor’s Note: This article explores the transformative impact of generative artificial intelligence (AI) on the legal profession, juxtaposed against the backdrop of copyright and ethical quandaries. As AI reshapes legal processes, from automating mundane tasks to enhancing legal research, the sector is thrust into a critical examination of how these innovations align with traditional legal ethics and copyright laws. This scrutiny is vital for cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery professionals, as it underscores the ongoing evolution of legal practices amidst digital advancements. By dissecting instances such as the rejection of AI-generated artworks for copyright and the proactive steps legal firms are taking to integrate AI ethically, the article illuminates the intricate dance between leveraging AI for progress and adhering to the core principles of legal practice. It also serves as a call to action for legal professionals and policymakers to navigate these waters with foresight and integrity, ensuring that the embrace of AI fosters innovation without compromising legal standards.

Industry News – Artificial Intelligence Beat

The Copyright Conundrum: Generative AI Challenges Legal Norms in the Digital Age

ComplexDiscovery Staff

Generative artificial intelligence (AI), exemplified by models like ChatGPT, is rapidly transforming the legal profession, automating routine tasks and predicting legal outcomes. However, as AI-generated content becomes more prevalent, complex questions arise about the nature of creative work produced by AI and its implications for copyright law.

The United States Copyright Office is grappling with the challenge of applying centuries-old copyright laws to the ever-evolving landscape of AI. This issue is compounded by the rapid advancement of technology, as described by Moore’s Law, which outpaces the slower evolution of legal frameworks. The heart of the debate lies in determining whether the outputs of generative AI can be considered transformative fair use under copyright law.

High-profile cases, such as The New York Times suit against OpenAI and the rejected copyright bids of Stephen Thaler’s ‘Creativity Machine’ and Ankit Sahni’s ‘SURYAST,’ highlight the urgent concerns surrounding AI’s use of copyrighted content for data training and the lack of human authorship in AI-generated works. These cases emphasize the Copyright Office’s stance on the necessity of human creative input in copyrightable works.

Beyond copyright concerns, the role of generative AI in the practice of law is significant. A survey by LexisNexis revealed that half of the lawyers believe AI will substantially alter their profession. AI applications range from document review and evidence analysis to drafting legal motions, as demonstrated by the chat software developed by Mishcon de Reya LLP, which prioritizes data protection and GDPR laws.

However, the use of AI in the legal field is not without challenges. Incidents like Steven Schwartz’s inaccurate use of ChatGPT in a court filing underscore the need for human oversight and vigilance, even with advanced AI tools. The legal community must navigate the ethical implications of using AI tools that might replicate or misuse copyrighted materials.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are at the forefront of addressing these issues, developing a machine unlearning method for image-based generative AI. This innovation aims to remove undesirable content, such as violent images or copyrighted works, without having to retrain the model from scratch.

The potential for AI to catalyze cheating has also prompted schools to invest in plagiarism detection technologies. Educators acknowledge AI’s benefits but stress the need for rigorous measures to ensure its appropriate use. The cultivation of an evolving digital literacy is becoming increasingly crucial as AI advances.

Legal professionals are equally divided between excitement for AI’s potential to enhance service quality and efficiency and concerns about the integrity of their practice. The challenge lies in balancing the rapid pace of technological advancement with the slower pace of legal reform. The capability of ChatGPT to argue for its potential to qualify as transformative fair use under copyright law represents a significant development.

As these debates unfold, experts call for aligning AI use with ethical and legal standards, addressing concerns related to copyright, privacy, and academic integrity. The role of human oversight in AI applications and the need for transparency are becoming increasingly essential.

The legal profession is not alone in facing these challenges. Similar concerns arise in fields beyond law, such as technology and photography, where tools like Microsoft Co’s Generative Erase are revolutionizing practices. As AI continues to advance, the pressing need for a balance between harnessing its potential for efficiency and navigating its challenges becomes increasingly evident.

The debate surrounding generative AI’s transformative effect and its ethical and copyright ramifications continues to shape the future of the legal profession. With the likelihood of new types of AI on the horizon, professionals and regulators must engage with these dilemmas earnestly to ensure the coexistence of innovation with the integrity of legal principles. The legal system must adapt to protect original human creativity while accommodating transformative AI technologies in an ever-changing digital landscape.

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Alan N. Sutin

Alan N. Sutin is Chair of the firm’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications Practice and Senior Chair of the Global Intellectual Property & Technology Practice. An experienced business lawyer with a principal focus on commercial transactions with intellectual property and technology issues and privacy

Alan N. Sutin is Chair of the firm’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications Practice and Senior Chair of the Global Intellectual Property & Technology Practice. An experienced business lawyer with a principal focus on commercial transactions with intellectual property and technology issues and privacy and cybersecurity matters, he advises clients in connection with transactions involving the development, acquisition, disposition and commercial exploitation of intellectual property with an emphasis on technology-related products and services, and counsels companies on a wide range of issues relating to privacy and cybersecurity. Alan holds the CIPP/US certification from the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

Alan also represents a wide variety of companies in connection with IT and business process outsourcing arrangements, strategic alliance agreements, commercial joint ventures and licensing matters. He has particular experience in Internet and electronic commerce issues and has been involved in many of the major policy issues surrounding the commercial development of the Internet. Alan has advised foreign governments and multinational corporations in connection with these issues and is a frequent speaker at major industry conferences and events around the world.