Generative artificial intelligence (AI) can be a powerful tool to create and enhance advertising campaigns, but it is important to ensure that the ads are legally compliant. Generative AI, a type of AI that can create new content, including text, images, video, audio, code and simulations, has become increasingly popular for use in many industries, including advertising. However, there are a myriad of legal issues that can arise when using AI to create ads.
Many advertisers, advertising agencies and public relations firms are now using AI chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s new Bing search engine and Google’s new Bard chatbot to brainstorm ideas for ads and advertising campaigns. Using AI merely to help brainstorm new ideas presents some legal risks. However, using AI to create ads, either in whole or in part, presents numerous legal risks.
Here are some guidelines to follow when creating ads using AI to help reduce some of the legal risks.
1. Document the creative process used to create ads when using AI.
Under recently published guidance by the U.S. Copyright Office, works created with the assistance of AI may be copyrightable as long as they involve sufficient human authorship. The Copyright Office has stated that “it is well-established that copyright can protect only material that is the product of human creativity.” According to the policy statement, works created by AI without human involvement cannot be copyrighted because they do not meet the human authorship requirement. “When an AI technology receives solely a prompt from a human and produces complex written, visual, or musical works in response, the ‘traditional elements of authorship’ are determined and executed by the technology—not the human user.” However, a work containing AI-generated material may be copyrightable, such as when a human selects or arranges “AI-generated material in a sufficiently creative way that ‘the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship.’”
Therefore, advertising that is created solely by AI is not entitled to copyright protection in the United States. There must be sufficient human involvement, which should be documented. A best practice is to document how the advertising was created, such as by saving the history of the prompts used, subsequent steps taken to modify the prompts, steps taken to modify the output, and other ways in which the advertising was created.
Copyright protection for advertising created with AI varies by country. In the United Kingdom (UK), advertising and other works created solely by a computer can be protected. The UK Intellectual Property Office has stated that “computer-generated works without a human author . . . are currently protected in the UK for 50 years.” The European Union (EU) is less clear. It has stated that an AI-generated work “could qualify as a work protected under EU copyright law on condition that a human being initiated and conceived the work and subsequently redacted the AI-assisted output in a creative manner.”
When there is no copyright protection for advertising created by AI, companies may not be able to enforce their rights over others if the advertising is copied, even if it is blatantly copied.
2. Review all claims to ensure that they are truthful, nondeceptive and substantiated.
Advertising created by AI is subject to the same false advertising rules as all other advertising. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prohibits advertising that is false, misleading or unsubstantiated. False advertising is also prohibited under state and local laws and can result in law enforcement action by the FTC and other federal agencies, state attorneys general, and local district attorneys, as well as lawsuits by competitors under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act and lawsuits by consumers, including class actions.
The remedies for false advertising consist of cease and desist orders, injunctions, monetary penalties, and/or corrective advertising. In addition to monetary penalties, financial losses from false advertising can include fines and attorneys’ fees; the cost of defense; the cost of replacing existing advertisements, displays and packaging; the cost of fielding consumer complaints; the cost of issuing refunds; and the loss of sales due to damage to consumer trust.
FTC Chair Lina Khan has stated that the FTC will be taking an active role in ensuring that the rise of AI does not violate consumer protection and antitrust laws. In a guest essay in The New York Times, she wrote: “As companies race to deploy and monetize A.I., the Federal Trade Commission is taking a close look at how we can best achieve our dual mandate to promote fair competition and to protect Americans from unfair or deceptive practices.”
Additionally, objective claims for products and services must be true, nondeceptive and adequately substantiated. AI chatbots can make up facts that may seem plausible but are not true and generate misinformation. According to an article in The New York Times, “because of the surprising way [AI chatbots] mix and match what they’ve learned to generate entirely new text, they often create convincing language that is flat-out wrong, or does not exist in their training data. A.I. researchers call this tendency to make stuff up a ‘hallucination,’ which can include irrelevant, nonsensical, or factually incorrect answers.”
Advertising created in whole or in part by AI can contain hallucinations and other misinformation. Of course, claims for products or services based on AI hallucinations are likely to be false. Consequently, it is important that advertising created by AI be carefully reviewed to make sure that it is not false, misleading or unsubstantiated.
3. Be careful to avoid copyright infringement.
Many AI chatbots are trained by analyzing huge amounts of data from the Internet. Advertising created by AI reflects this data. In some cases, the output of AI can include identifiable portions of the training data. When such outputs are used to create advertising, there is a risk of infringement of third-party copyrights by reproducing copyrighted material without permission. Advertising created by AI may also constitute a derivative work of copyrighted material, which also creates a risk of copyright infringement.
Specifically, if the advertising created by AI is too similar to a copyrighted work, the advertising may violate the Copyright Act or foreign copyright laws and expose the advertiser to copyright infringement claims. The difficulty is that because users of AI are not aware of all the copyrighted material on the Internet (and used to train the AI), users may not know how similar the advertising is to a copyrighted work and may publish infringing advertising. Even if this does not give rise to copyright infringement claims, it can cause significant damage to the advertiser’s reputation.
Advertising created by AI should be carefully reviewed to ensure that it does not infringe third-party copyrights or result in reputational damage to the advertiser.
4. Be careful not to use an advertiser’s confidential information for prompts.
Prompts are the queries that users input into an AI system to generate an output. Prompts can be used by AI software for training purposes to improve their models. Users should be careful to avoid sharing confidential or sensitive information when creating prompts, since AI systems can incorporate the prompts to generate outputs for other users.
If an advertising agency, a public relations firm or an employee of an advertiser uses the advertiser’s confidential information in prompts to create advertising with AI, this could result in liability based on a breach of confidentiality.
Likewise, if a prompt uses a company’s trade secret, providing that data to an AI model could result in the information losing its trade secret protection.
If a prompt uses information subject to the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine, that information may lose its privileged status due to waiver of the privilege.
Prompts that contain personal information can raise privacy law compliance obligations. There are United States and EU requirements regarding notice, consent and data rights, such as the rights of individuals to access, delete or correct information. Many states have stringent consumer privacy laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was strengthened as of January 1, 2023. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) applies to the online collection of personal information about children under 13 years of age. In the EU, companies must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when using AI tools. The GDPR covers the use of personal data to train, develop or deploy AI.
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. This means you can use Content for any purpose, including commercial purposes such as sale or publication, if you comply with these Terms. OpenAI may use Content to provide and maintain the Services, comply with applicable law, and enforce our policies. You are responsible for Content, including for ensuring that it does not violate any applicable law or these Terms.
These terms apply to all OpenAI products, including ChatGPT, GPT-4 (OpenAI’s most advanced AI model) and DALL-E2 (an AI system used to create images and art from text inputs).
Since the AI system may have rights to use the output, the system may reproduce the same or similar content for another user. This can result in copyright infringement claims and reputational harm based on plagiarism.
6. Establish AI usage policies for employees.
Considering the risks when using AI to create advertising, advertisers, advertising agencies and public relations firms would do well to develop AI usage policies for employees. If a company permits its employees to use AI to create advertising, there should be protocols for the use of AI tools and for review of the advertising before it is published.
Specifically, the usage policy should contain guidelines for employees to seek approval to use AI to create advertisements and to use AI for other purposes. The guidelines should also cover what the review process of the advertising will entail, including higher-risk areas that employees should be aware of when using AI to create advertising. It is important for employees to understand that they should not use AI to create advertising unless they are permitted to do so by their employer. For example, the guidelines could prohibit employees from using AI tools for advertising unless approved by the legal department.