AI in business: The intellectual property implications?

If there’s been one major technological advancement in 2023, it’s the emergence of AI and AI generated content.

Many people and businesses have adopted AI into their working life, whether that involves using a language model such as ‘ChatGPT’ or Google’s ‘Bard’, image generation tools such as ‘DALL-E’ and ‘MidJourney’ or AI search assistants like the one incorporated in Bing’s engine.

Whatever the case, AI has certainly been helpful to many of us; allowing us to improve our workflows. But what are the legal implications of using AI in your business?

Is AI copyright protected? Can it violate GDPR? What does it mean for intellectual property?

In her latest article, Corporate & Commercial Paralegal Hem Gujadhur answers all these questions and more; outlining the potential risks involved in using AI for your business.

How can generative AI help small businesses?

AI can be integrated into a small business in a number of ways:

  • through new opportunities to deliver innovative new services,
  • enhanced decision-making capabilities,
  • performance analysis and improvements; and
  • advanced training techniques.

As entrepreneurs continue to explore how to adapt the technology to use in their own industry, AI looks set to improve efficiency and allow for a new generation of products and services.

This new age of radical innovation has potential to create product and service efficiencies that could be scaled up and rolled out across entire sectors. An exciting prospect.

Business owners may also be looking internally at how AI could be used to re-shape their own business models or enhance the effectiveness of internal processes such as recruitment or training.

Related: What do you need to know when setting up a business?

How to use AI in your business

If you are considering incorporating an AI model into your business these are a few of our recommendations…

You should review the areas of your business where AI could be used and where its impact would be most effective, this is likely to be in an area of data driven or repetitive tasks.

You can then decide whether you have the expertise in-house or if you need external consultants.

If you do need a consultant, make sure to have a strong contract with them that details the scope of the project, the key deliverables, time frames, how sensitive data should be handled and how the intellectual property will be used.

Alternatively, if the project is handled in house, ensure that any restrictions regarding confidentiality are made clear to employees.

Lastly, it is key that you assess and mitigate any risks and consider whether the outcomes of the AI project should be protected as an industry secret.

Is AI content copyrighted?

AI raises questions of copyright because, unlike in the past when technology was seen as a tool that assists the creative process, AI completes the creative process without human intervention.

Under UK Law the default position is that copyright belongs to the creator, the creator of a computer-generated work is generally considered to be the ‘the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the works are undertaken’ (section 9(3) Copyright, Designs & Patents Act). However, this in itself is ambiguous.

Users of AI tools can check the terms of any licences that the program makes available. These may state that the intellectual property of anything created by the AI belongs to the platform, or, alternatively, may assign IP rights to the user.

Likewise, users will need to ensure that any data (text, imagery, code etc) uploaded to any AI platform is copyright and restriction free, otherwise they may be in breach of third-party licences.

Related: What is intellectual property and how to protect it?

Can AI violate copyright?

You may be wondering who takes responsibility for copyright infringement that arises from AI generated material, and what copyright owners can do about it.

Well, we are yet to see any case law tackle these issues; but the terms of an AI platform will likely state that the user will be responsible for issues arising from copyrighted material they have uploaded and face any following legal costs.

AI platform users should review the copyright status of any material that they upload and evaluate the terms of use of the platform to identify the potential legal and financial risks involved.

All business owners should also train employees on how to incorporate AI in their role and any restrictions to prevent any breach of copyright.

Related: What do you need in your Terms and Conditions?

Can AI have intellectual property rights?

Click here to read the full article, where I go into much more detail.

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