ChatGPT has taken the world by storm since its release in November 2022, with the chatbot signing up 1 million users in just five days (a milestone it took Netflix 41 months to pass). 

And while some have delighted with ChatGPT’s ability to generate eloquent responses to prompts by users, others have raised concerns about issues from job security to plagiarism.

From a legal perspective, one issue that will need to be considered in the coming years is the potential intellectual property and copyright implications for businesses when using ChatGPT-generated content. 

Some of this stems from how the tool works.

As a large-scale language-generation model, ChatGPT was trained using huge volumes of content pulled from the internet and other resources. Some of this content would have been protected by copyright or subject to licensing terms such as creative commons licences. 

As a result, you may inadvertently step on someone else’s intellectual property rights by using AI-generated content without the authority of the true owner (i.e the original creator). 

So does this mean you should be held liable for copyright infringement? What about the chatbot’s developers? And who owns the output of an AI bot?

Under the Copyright Act 1968, only a person who is an Australian citizen or resident can be the owner of copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work if it is original and involves an exertion of human skill, creativity and independent intellectual effort. 

In other words, there currently needs to be a human author for copyright to exist. Similarly, AI-created inventions will not currently be protected under Australian patent laws.

So what does ChatGPT have to say about copyright for AI-generated works?

Well, here’s the chatbot’s response when the question was put to it:

“As an AI language model owned and operated by OpenAI, all copyright in the ChatGPT generated content belongs to OpenAI. Therefore, OpenAI owns the Australian copyright in ChatGPT-generated content.”

That brings us nicely to the final point. Australian businesses should be aware that AI models can generate content that is not entirely accurate, which can itself cause potential legal issues. 

Blaine Hattie is a business lawyer and principal at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers

Need expert advice on copyright law or any other commercial law issue Contact Sutton Laurence King Lawyers today on 03 9070 9810 or  for help.