You Ask, I Answer: Legality of Works in Custom GPTs?

In today’s episode, we tackle a complex and critical topic: the legality of using custom GPT models with copyrighted content. You’ll learn about the potential legal implications and risks of incorporating copyrighted works into your AI models, especially for commercial purposes. Discover expert legal insights on how to navigate this challenging landscape, and understand the importance of obtaining proper licenses and permissions. Tune in to stay informed and protect yourself from legal pitfalls in the rapidly evolving field of AI and copyright law.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer. I cannot give legal advice. In this video, I cite actual attorneys, but their feedback is also not legal advice. Legal advice comes from an attorney you hire to address your specific situation.

Sharon Toerek of Toerek Law:

this is not a strategy I would endorse for our clients. It’s a derivative use of copyrighted work at potential scale, for a commercial purpose.

I think the New York Times’ case against OpenAI, however, is the potential domino that will tip this question either toward a practical industry solution (a paid license model for copyright owners) or a definitive legal standard regarding the input of copyrighted works into AI platforms for training purposes vs. the right to use any output from AI commercially.

Ruth Carter of Geek Law Firm:

My response is a hard and fast “fck no.” There are lawsuits (plural) being fought right now, brought by book authors who assert that AI is using their books without a license.

When you own a copyright, you have the exclusive right to control the circumstances under which your work can be copied. If you copy a book into your GPT and then use that GPT to create a work based on the book, don’t be surprised if you get a cease and desist letter or a lawsuit from the copyright owner. It’s just asking for trouble.

Kerry Gorgone:

Nope. You’re making a copy of the work in ChatGPT so you can make derivative works. The right to make copies and create derivative works belongs to the copyright holder.

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You Ask, I Answer: Legality of Works in Custom GPTs?

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Machine-Generated Transcript

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In today’s episode, I got a comment on one of my YouTube videos about custom GPTs.

The comment was, I can read a book and share the info with others.

Why couldn’t a GPT do the same? You can give the custom instructions to not allow more than a paragraph to be quoted at a time or something similar, maybe.

But having the book and customs GPT’s knowledge base doesn’t seem to be unethical or illegal.

You’re not sharing the actual book, so I see nothing wrong.

I can read books and compile info to sell my knowledge as a consulting agent.

So what’s the difference between that and an autonomous agent? This is a question about, I was saying as a best practice, don’t put other people’s copyrighted works in your custom GPT.

And this was a comment and a question asking, well, why not? So let’s start with a couple of pieces of foundation work.

I am not a lawyer.

I am not an attorney.

I cannot give legal advice.

To be perfectly clear, I asked some attorneys for their opinions on the topic and to clarify on their behalf.

Yes, they are attorneys.

They are not your attorney, and therefore they have given some feedback, but it also is not legal advice.

If you need legal advice, you have to hire the attorney yourself, pay them money, and they can then give you legal advice that is specific to your situation.

So even though I’m naming some names here, because it was on a public LinkedIn post, this is not legal counsel from these people.

You have to hire them for it to be legal counsel for you.

So now that we’ve got those disclaimers out of the way, I asked my lawyer friends, well, what do you say about putting someone else’s book in a custom GPT, particularly one that you were selling? So Sharon Torek of Torek Law, who is also, full disclosure, the lawyer for my company, Trust Insights, the law firm that represents us, she said, this is not a strategy I would endorse for our clients.

It’s a derivative use of copyrighted work at potential scale for commercial purpose.

I think the New York Times case against OpenAI, however, is the potential domino that will tip this question either toward a practical industry solution like a paid license or a licensing model for copyright owners or a definitive legal standing regarding the input of copyrighted works into AI platforms for training purposes versus the right to use any output from AI commercially.

So one lawyer saying, don’t do it.

It’s a derivative work.

Ruth Carter of GeekLawFirm.com also said, my response is a hard and fast fuck no.

There are lawsuits, plural, being fought right now brought by book authors who assert that AI is using their books without a license.

Own a copyright, you have the exclusive right to control the circumstances under which your work can be copied.

If you copy a book into your GPT and then use that GPT to create a work based on the book, don’t be surprised if you get a cease and desist letter or a lawsuit from the copyright owner.

It’s just asking for trouble.

I would add that no matter what you give for custom instructions, clever and enterprising people can jailbreak chat GPT and find out if you are leveraging copyrighted works without permission.

Because you put it in the custom GPT does not mean that it is safe to use or that you won’t be found out.

And finally, Kerry Gorgone, who is also a JD, says, nope, you’re making a copy of the work in chat GPT so you can make derivative works.

The right to make copies and create derivative works belongs to the copyright holder.

So three out of three lawyers who are actual practicing lawyers who have gone through law school, have their degrees, have their certifications, have practices or had practices, all say no.

Don’t do this.

It’s a bad idea.

You’re going to get in trouble.

You are potentially opening yourself up for a lawsuit.

So when it comes to using custom GPT and the works that you put in them, you can put in anything you have a license to use.

So all of your own work, anything that is public domain or there’s license for commercial use.

One of the things to look for, there’s a license system called Creative Commons.

Creative Commons has a bunch of different licenses, but there’s a Creative Commons license.

That permits you to use a work commercially.

You have to look for it.

And if you’re working with a, a, someone else’s copyrighted work, if it has a Creative Commons license that allows for commercial use, then you can use that.

But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean you have permission to use it.

Just because you happen to have a copy of it does not mean you have permission to use it.

That’s that has been the case in terms of law for quite some time.

That will probably continue to be the case in law for quite some time, because that’s just the way it is.

If you need data of some kind that you do not currently have a license to, the safest and easiest strategy is to approach the license holder, the copyright holder, and say, can I license this work for use? If I wanted to make a GPT that was a stellar business writer, and I had a copy of Anne Handley’s Everybody Writes, I could approach Anne and say, hey, may I license the use of your work in my custom GPT? And if Anne says yes, and here are the commercials.

You pay me X percentage of revenue or whatever, you sign an agreement, now you’re good to go, right? Just because something is copyrighted doesn’t mean you can’t use it.

You just can’t use it without permission.

You cannot use it without permission.

If you get permission and you get licensing squared away, you can then use it.

The same is true for anyone who’s ever done any work with audio or video, particularly audio.

If you use a song that you don’t have a license to, you can get a takedown notice or get sued.

If you have licensing from agencies like ASCAP and BMI and Harry Fox Agency, and you’ve done all the payments for that stuff, then you can use any song in their catalogs.

For example, with podcasters, if you wanted to use licensed songs, if you wanted to use Start Me Up, the Rolling Stones song, as long as you had paid off the licenses to the recording agencies and the performing rights organizations, you can then use it.

It’s totally okay because you’ve paid the licensing.

Get your licensing in order if you want to use other people’s copyrighted works.

And if you don’t want to pay that money, don’t use their works.

It’s as simple as that.

That’s today’s show.

Thanks for tuning in.

We’ll talk to you next time.

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