AI Laws and Ethical Considerations Still Evolving

Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing various sectors, including healthcare, finance, entertainment, and legal fields, pushing the boundaries of innovation and efficiency. But the rapid advancement of AI technologies has outpaced the development of corresponding legal frameworks, raising complex questions about rights, responsibilities, and regulations.

Legal precedents shaping AI law

One of the primary challenges in regulating AI is the absence of comprehensive legislation directly addressing AI technologies' unique characteristics and implications. However, several court decisions are beginning to outline the legal lines of AI use. The U.S. Copyright Office, for example, has made it clear that works created by AI without human authorship do not qualify for copyright protection, emphasizing the role of human creativity in copyrightable works. This stance was reflected in the 2019 case of Thaler v. Iancu, where the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled that an AI system cannot be listed as an inventor on patent applications, underscoring the legal requirement of human involvement in inventions.

Copyrighting AI-generated material

The question of copyrighting AI-generated material hinges on authorship and originality. Current copyright laws in many jurisdictions require a work to be authored by a human to be eligible for copyright protection. This leaves a gray area for AI-generated works, where the delineation of copyright ownership between the AI developers, the AI program itself, and the end users remains ambiguous. Some legal scholars suggest that revising copyright laws to accommodate AI-generated works may encourage innovation while ensuring fair compensation and recognition for creators.

Privacy issues in AI

Privacy concerns related to AI are multifaceted, involving collecting, storing, and analyzing vast amounts of personal data. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides a regulatory framework that includes AI and data privacy provisions, requiring transparency, consent, and data minimization. But enforcing these provisions in the context of AI systems that continuously learn and evolve presents significant challenges. The potential for AI to infringe on privacy rights through surveillance, profiling, and data breaches necessitates robust legal safeguards and ethical guidelines that are yet to be defined.

Additional issues to be addressed

Additional legal issues facing AI use and development include:

  • Intellectual property issues beyond copyright, including how IP laws apply to AI algorithms, models, and data sets, especially when built on or trained with publicly available data.
  • Determining liability as AI systems take on more autonomous roles in decision-making (e.g., autonomous vehicles, medical diagnosis errors by AI systems, or financial losses due to automated trading systems). Who will be held responsible — the AI developers, the users, the owners, or the AI entity itself?
  • Discriminatory and biased hiring, lending, law enforcement, and other decisions that result from AI systems perpetuating and amplifying biases present in the data they're trained on.
  • Legal measures to protect against cyber threats, including data breaches and manipulation of AI algorithms and to hold entities accountable for breaches.
  • The lack of uniformity in laws across different countries regarding global AI applications and governance.
  • AI's impact on the workforce, including automation and job displacement, raises questions about labor laws, social safety nets, and the retraining of workers.

The implications of advanced AI potentially gaining some form of legal personhood or rights.

Unresolved questions and future directions

Clearly, several critical questions remain unanswered in the realm of AI law and rights. While court decisions and existing regulations offer some guidance, much remains to be determined as we integrate AI into society. 

As the legal scene surrounding AI rapidly evolves, your best bet to mitigate legal challenges is to closely monitor and conform with evolving regulations, prioritize ethical AI use (transparency, accountability, fairness, and security) and consult legal experts. 

By Napela Shim, La Crosse Attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC. If you need an attorney in southwestern Wisconsin, call her at 608-784=5678.

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