AI Event Content and Intellectual Property — What You Need to Know

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Skift Take

Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing the world. Not only is it crucial to understand the nuances of this fast-moving technology revolution, but also its possible legal ramifications.

Do you use artificial intelligence (AI) to help you with all aspects of the meetings and events you plan? Do you know who owns the copy AI generated for you? You should be okay at present because of the doctrine of fair use that allows the use of copyrighted material in certain situations without needing the owner’s permission. But a flurry of lawsuits and litigation may change this.

Industry experts say in a rush to get AI products out, tech companies have disregarded some intellectual property protections. “We are in a Napster era, moving to Spotify,” said Jill Blood, VP, deputy general counsel and privacy officer of Maritz

AI Doesn’t Replace Meeting Professionals

The use of AI was at the center of the nearly five-month Hollywood screenwriters’ strike. AI-generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit, or separate rights is at the heart of the deal. Similarly, it can’t and shouldn’t replace the need for skilled meeting professionals. In other words, if you’re using AI, it’s important a human work alongside it.

In one of the most highly publicized cases, comedian Sarah Silverman is suing ChatGPT-maker OpenAI for copyright infringement. Silverman’s lawsuit states she never gave permission for it to ingest the digital version of her 2010 book. The memoir was copied “without consent, without credit, and without compensation,” according to the lawsuit.

This lawsuit and others may result in a future where information is licensed for use in AI tools. For example, in the future, a meeting professional may be able to tap into resources licensed by industry experts to use as planning resources. 

Guardrails Being Implemented

Help may be on the way. California introduced a bill that will create national standards for AI use. Connecticut lawmakers passed SB 1103, regulating the government’s procurement and use of artificial intelligence.

New York City plans to use AI to help residents access city services. It has also established an AI framework that acknowledges the risks and biases of AI.

“We have entered a new frontier, and we are figuring out the guardrails,” said David Peckinpaugh, president and CEO of Maritz. “We recommend you have basic protections built in.”

Additionally, the U.S. Copyright Office is getting involved as it issued a notice of inquiry in the Federal Register on copyright and AI. It is studying the copyright issues created by generative AI and whether legislative or regulatory steps are needed.

Balance Is Key

“The introduction of generative AI is currently dominating many conversations, accompanied by both great anticipation as well as risk. We are taking a balanced approach to implementing the technology, acknowledging the risk involved but also the ability to positively impact our clients and our business,” said Peckinpaugh.

Currently, relatively few companies have risk policies in place for generative AI despite rapidly growing adoption. First and foremost, make sure your data is your data — and it stays that way, according to Maritz. Ensure it is in your private enterprise environment or cloud, protected by compliance and security controls, and not used to train other AI models outside your organization.

Regarding AI compliance, assembling a cross-functional team comprising legal, human resources, IT, and more is key to finding an approach that balances opportunity and risk.

Maritz recommends experimenting on a small scale and leaning on your legal/compliance and IT partners for guidance.

“Bringing in leaders across functions is key. If you only ask legal and finance, you’ll likely get a no, while if you only ask innovation and marketing, you’ll likely get a yes. A thoughtful approach balances opportunity and risk,” said Blood. “AI offers the meeting planning industry a great deal of opportunity and possibility and a lot of risk.”

Understanding AI Risks

Intellectual property infringement is a top risk. It is important to know how to protect yourself and your company. The interpretation of the fair use doctrine, which allows copyrighted work to be used without the owner’s permission, is at the center of these AI-focused lawsuits.

Not all systems are alike. “Open” AI systems such as ChatGPT and Bard are free and available to all users inside and outside the workplace. Public AI systems train on vast sets of data. On the other hand, private AI respects the privacy and control of users’ and organizations’ data. It is built only on your data. 

As the industry rushes to adopt AI, it is vital to do so thoughtfully without throwing caution to the wind. Privacy and the use of intellectual property must be considered.

Photo credit: Gerd Altmann / pixaby