Artificial intelligence and legal considerations

robot hand operating a laptop computer

An overview of AI and the law

In the recently released horror film, "M3GAN," a doll with artificial intelligence comforts and protects a little girl, dances, and wreaks havoc. And while the storyline is fiction, it turns out AI can create potentially scary real-life issues outside of cinema, including matters that may be in violation of the law. Today we're breaking down some of the primary potential pitfalls of AI to help you understand the potential implications of powerful AI tools and what they could mean for you or your business. 

AI tools: the complex legal issues related to artificial intelligence

Chances are you and your business use AI in more ways than you might think, in fact, companies are increasingly relying on AI. While the tools are sometimes built in-house, they can also be used for company purposes via a third-party vendor. 

In a nutshell, AI allows companies to better leverage data, often with the end goal of working smarter and strategically growing the business. AI can be used for everything from service and supply chain optimization and efficiency, marketing, problem solving, talent recruitment and hiring, informed decision-making, and new product innovation. As you might imagine, the broad-based application of AI can create liability concerns, including AI tool ownership and licensing, appropriate use of data, privacy matters, and much more. 

Like horror films, AI law is not for the faint of heart. But, unlike the unsuspecting characters in a movie, you don't need to fall victim to AI gone wrong. That's why having an attorney on your side is so important for navigating the legal matters related to ownership, liability, and use of AI. Here are just a few of the legal issues companies may face related to the use of AI. 

Discrimination and bias. 

When it comes to artificial intelligence, the opportunities for potential illegal discrimination or bias are vast. Liability is complex and may rest with the creator or owner of the AI tool, or the user who has contracted through a third party. To be ethical and lawful, AI must respect human rights and have safety measures in place that limit or eliminate the potential for misuse. As an example, facial recognition algorithms have failed at accurately capturing African and Asian faces in various studies.  This inaccuracy could easily and provably lead to liability issues. 

Privacy and data protection/security. 

AI systems leverage massive amounts of data to make decisions and may even adjust over time. This, of course, raises privacy concerns. Consider the number of data breaches we hear about regularly; that data can be extremely valuable to marketers, companies, and even cybercriminals. Who is liable if your customers' private data, harvested via AI, is leaked? What if your personal data falls into the wrong hands? The smarter technology gets, the better it often is at collecting user information, and that can pose some serious legal questions. 

Algorithmic transparency. 

Exactly how AI makes decisions is an important factor in ensuring these tools are used fairly and responsibly and that there is accountability for instances that violate the law. Whether a business builds its own AI tools or uses them through a third-party vendor, algorithmic transparency is an essential legal consideration to ensure compliance with the law.  This is often a challenge in civil cases where a company’s intellectual property and trade secrets are sought after evidence.  

The question of AI autonomy. 

Equally as complicated are the considerations to whether an AI system is fully autonomous or under human control, and who is liable for harm caused by the tool. For example, what if AI-controlled heavy machinery malfunctions, causing injury to the user?  Current law related to responsibility and autonomous AI systems is still evolving, which can result in a gap in protections for individuals who are harmed.

Intellectual property rights. 

AI is so advanced, it can actually create new music, written content, and even art. The question is, who owns the end-product AI creates, and can it be copyrighted? The ownership of intellectual property rights relating to AI-generated content is a huge issue for companies that innovate solutions, create content, or invent technology.  Protecting those rights is key for businesses that create AI content and for the artists who are the progenitors of content used by AI tools. 

Questions about AI and your business? Enlist the help of a trusted attorney.

Laws related to AI and other modern technologies, like technology itself, are always evolving. It's best to have a trusted team of experienced attorneys on your side when wrestling with legal matters related to AI and other emerging tech. Of course, as for fictional AI dolls who leverage AI to mercilessly exact revenge, it's best to be armed with a fearless attorney friend and a full bucket of buttered popcorn. 


Joe Veenstra, La Crosse WI LawyerBy Joe Veenstra, consumer law attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC.  For a La Crosse lawyer, call him at 608-784-5678.


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