What’s New: Last week, my friend Anastacia Brice told me about the AI tool Jasper, and their Terms of Service which says you give them the right to use your content (Jasper’s bolding, not mine):
- By submitting, posting, displaying, providing, or otherwise making available any Customer Content on or through the Services, you expressly grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Jasper a royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, list information regarding, edit, translate, distribute, syndicate, publicly perform, publicly display, and make derivative works of all such Customer Content and your name, voice, and/or likeness…
I’m not an attorney. But this clearly says they can reproduce, modify, or publish any of your content (both inputs and outputs). See Terms of Service Overview (below) for what other AI companies are saying about your rights.
Why it matters: As a small business owner, it’s all about risks versus rewards. If the information you input into the AI tools or the output you get from them isn’t yours, that could cost you. And if the output you get isn’t accurate or unique, that could cost you, too.
- Two caveats:
- I’ll focus on written text in this blog post, but this is true for all AI-generated content: slide decks, artwork/photos, videos, etc.
- The world of generative AI and the laws associated with it are changing quickly. This blog post could be old news by the end of 2023. (Heck, it could be old news tomorrow!)
The big picture: According to the US Copyright Office, you can’t copyright AI-created content. You can only copyright content created by humans. So, unless you edit it, and add your own thoughts and creativity, you don’t own it. Some countries are working with different legal paradigms so check with your own copyright office. In a PDF document dated March 2023, the US Copyright Office says:
- In the Office’s view, it is well-established that copyright can protect only material that is the product of human creativity. Most fundamentally, the term “author,” which is used in both the Constitution and the Copyright Act, excludes non-humans.
Do you own your content? Know your rights. Read the TOS.
- Each AI tool/platform has a Terms of Services page (TOS). Read it.
- FYI, inputs (the prompts and content you enter into the AI tool to train it) and outputs (the results the AI tool gives you) are combined and called “content.”
- Some say you do own the input.
- Many say you do not own the output, but give you a license to use it.
- Most say they have a right to use your input and output to train their tool, thereby sharing your content with other users.
- Some let you opt-out of this data sharing.
The rewards of AI:
- It creates efficiency. You can get writing done faster.
- It’s useful for compiling ideas. It’s a helpful way to bring together many thoughts into a cohesive article.
- It might make you a better writer. If you’re not skilled at writing, it may be a good way to teach yourself. However, if you don’t know what good writing looks like for a blog post or sales page, how can you judge the quality of the content AI is providing for you? Consider pairing the use of AI tools with taking a smart workshop on copywriting.
- You can prompt it to write in your voice/brand/style. If you don’t have a style yet, you can prompt it to write in different styles until the output matches your needs.
- You can submit your own writing to some AI tools, which trains the tool on your voice and your content. Then you can extract or combine your own content in new ways. This is super handy for social media posts.
- Some AI tools like Quillbot are aware of concerns about plagiarism, and they have included a Plagiarism Checker in their paid version. Wouldn’t you want to be sure that the AI tool hadn’t accidentally copied text from someone else’s work?
- You might learn something new. If you’re using AI to research a topic, you could get fresh ideas and insights.
The risks of AI:
- The output might not be unique. Some AI tools don’t guarantee your output will be unique to you. Your competitors might be given essentially the same text. If you want to be seen as an expert and thought leader, your content must be your unique take on even the most mundane topics.
- The output might not be accurate. And some tools actively lie. The terms of service on the AI platforms often remind you that AI makes mistakes and you should check the accuracy of everything they produce. Forbes wrote an article a few days ago about a lawyer who used ChatGPT to find five case citations to support his conclusions when he appeared in court on behalf of his client. Imagine his embarrassment when it was discovered that NONE of these five cases ever existed, they were completely invented by ChatGPT. When the attorney asked ChatGPT if the cases were real, ChatGPT lied and said they were.
- You may be responsible for damages if your AI-generated content harms someone because it is inaccurate. Read the TOS, some tools clearly say that they can’t be held liable. If you are in an advice-giving profession, double-check everything.
- In some countries including the USA, you can’t copyright AI-generated content. You have no protection if someone steals your content because you don’t own it. These laws may be different in different countries and everything is subject to change.
- It might affect your SEO. Google seems able to discern AI-generated content from human-written content and ranks it accordingly in search results. Last year they said they wouldn’t put it in the search results and thought it was spam. In February 2023, they said they understood that people were using AI to create content and their entire focus was on the quality of the content and the authority of the person writing it. If you haven’t established your expert status on the topic of your blog post, you probably won’t get ranked in Google. (But that’s always been true.)
- You can’t be sure that AI hasn’t provided you with plagiarized text. Note the Terms of Service often says AI isn’t responsible for lawsuits, you are. Also, TOS encourages you to double-check that you are not infringing on someone else’s copyright. AI rarely provides you with a citation as to where the engine got the material for its data lake used to train the engine, but most experts say that much of the data is scraped from the internet, and most of that data is copyrighted material.
- The output might not be well-written. Imagine how that impacts your audience’s ability to trust you or see you as an expert.
- Your inputs might not be private and could be used to train the AI tool. If you’re inputting your proprietary content or system, and asking AI to create a lesson plan or slide deck from it, be aware that you might not be able to stop the AI platform from sucking in that information to feed the data lake. That means your proprietary content, which you have developed over many years, will be used to train the AI tool so that someone can tap into that wisdom to write an article of their own. Some AI tools are allowing you to opt-out of sharing your inputs, but it’s your responsibility to know the rules and opt-out from each platform.
The bottom line: Perhaps the best use of AI is to use it as a starting place in your writing, then add your own thoughts, as well as stories and examples from your own life.
- For creators of original material, protect yourself and get it officially copyrighted. As of this writing, the cost in the USA to submit an application for text copyright electronically is just $45 to submit one work, and $85 to submit a group of works (think: your entire blog).
- For creators who are using AI on behalf of their clients, if your client expects you to create original work on their behalf, work they can later copyright or trademark, your bar is much higher. Makes sure you have a written agreement with the client about using AI to create content for them.
- AI and the law surrounding it will change rapidly. It wouldn’t hurt to do a quick search on trusted sites once a month to see what’s new. And watch for updated terms of service for the AI tools you are using. This is one time that reading the fine print could save your bacon.
This blog post was written the old-fashioned way through research, thinking, and crafting the written page. I get a lot of clarity and joy from the writing process, so my plan is to continue writing original content for you. You’re cool with that, right?
Terms of Service Overview: Here are a few excerpts from these AI tools’ TOS pages. Go to your AI tool and read the entire TOS. Understand your rights and the rights you are granting the tool. If your tool isn’t listed here, find the TOS on your tool’s site, and read it.
User hereby grants QuillBot an unlimited, irrevocable, worldwide, non- exclusive, transferable, assignable, royalty-free, sublicensable right and license to use the Submissions for any purpose including, without limitation, developing the QuillBot technology, providing tailored Services experiences to User, and generating the Output.
Permissions to Your User Content. By making any User Content available through the Services you hereby grant to Copy.AI, its licensors, and their affiliates a non-exclusive, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, fully paid-up license, with the right to sublicense, to use, host, store, copy, communicate, modify, create derivative works based upon, distribute, publish, publicly display, and publicly perform your User Content in connection with Copy.AI, its licensors, and their affiliate providing, operating, securing, and improving their services. Ownership of Intellectual Property. We may make available through the Services content that is subject to intellectual property rights, including Generated Content. We and our licensors (as applicable) retain all rights to that content.
https://openai.com/policies (ChatGPT) …
You may provide input to the Services (“Input”), and receive output generated and returned by the Services based on the Input (“Output”). Input and Output are collectively “Content.” As between the parties and to the extent permitted by applicable law, you own all Input. Subject to your compliance with these Terms, OpenAI hereby assigns to you all its right, title and interest in and to Output. If you do not want your Non-API Content used to improve Services, you can opt out. OpenAI goes on to say that you must disclose if you’ve used AI to formulate content. Read about it here.
https://www.jasper.ai/legal/terms (their bolding, not mine) …
By submitting, posting, displaying, providing, or otherwise making available any Customer Content on or through the Services, you expressly grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Jasper a royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, list information regarding, edit, translate, distribute, syndicate, publicly perform, publicly display, and make derivative works of all such Customer Content and your name, voice, and/or likeness
Go deeper: Here are some helpful articles if you want to learn more.
ChatGPT: The Future May Be Bright, But on What Terms?
Generative AI Has an Intellectual Property Problem
The scary truth about AI copyright is nobody knows what will happen next
ChatGPT Users Should Read the Terms of Service—or It Could Cost You