New on the Internet for Lawyers

Recent articles and updates in the Internet for Lawyers Newsletter and other articles from infolaw contributors and partners
What’s new?

EU AI Act passed

The European Parliament approved the Artificial Intelligence Act (EU AI Act) on 13 March 2024. It has been hailed as the world’s first comprehensive and binding piece of legislation on AI, although many of its provisions won’t be enforced for at least a year or two. Rather than attempting to regulate specific technologies, the focus of the EU AI Act is on the element of risk posed by the way in which AI systems are used. So, for example, the use of AI in video games is considered low risk whereas social scoring systems (such as that used in China) is deemed unacceptable risk. The Act also attempts to tackle some of the inherent copyright issues associated with training generative AI (GenAI) products, by imposing a certain level of transparency for systems it terms General Purpose AI (GPAI).

Law firm bans GenAI

Not a day seems to go by without a barrage of press releases about law firms adopting AI products, supposedly to “improve efficiency” (but arguably just to increase profits and jump on the AI bandwagon). In the midst of all the legal AI fanfare, American firm Carlton Fields ruffled a few feathers and generated some heat on LinkedIn when it announced a firm-wide ban on the use of GenAI for research and writing. Making the announcement, Peter J. Winders, General Counsel at the firm, concluded that GenAI “simply can’t be used to produce competent legal product[s] intended to aid a client or assist a court in the important work of fairly deciding disputes and developing the law.” Interestingly, he also argues that, even if a large language model (LLM) is trained on reliable legal information (as is the case with the new Lexis+ AI product), it can still result in so called “digital hallucinations”: “What about a generative AI program trained only on a large library of only reliable material, such as the West system or the preserved research and output of a large law firm? This might cut down on the risk that the generative AI tool has scraped rubbish off the internet at large, but it will do nothing to stop its resort to the fabrication of cases.” These shortcomings of supposedly hallucination-free AI are highlighted in this LinkedIn post.

UK AI and copyright code abandoned

GenAI companies such as OpenAI and Google are facing legal challenges from a variety of publications and writers who are concerned with the unlicensed use of their copyright material for the training of LLMs. The UK 4 developers by drawing up a voluntary code of practice. Unfortunately, it recently abandoned this initiative, claiming that the working group was unable to reach any consensus. However, there is still a chance of getting this issue back on the government agenda, thanks to the Artificial Intelligence (Regulation) Bill, a private members’ bill sponsored by Lord Holmes of Richmond. Separately, the House of Lords recently produced a report in which it calls on the government to tackle the issue of LLMs being trained on copyrighted materials.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022

Cybersecurity has been in the news recently following the apparent spear phishing attempt targeting a number of MPs. One piece of legislation which attempts to reduce the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of consumer connected devices is the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act, the provisions of which are due to come into force on 29 April 2024. The Act requires manufacturers, importers, and distributors of relevant products to take steps to minimise the exposure of consumers to cyberattacks. It’s designed to tighten up the notoriously lax security protocols related to the Internet of Things (IoT), preventing malicious hackers breaking into a home network via an insecure smart speaker which comes with a default password of “1234” etc.

Clarification of the term “personal data”

recent judgment handed down by the European Court of Justice, in a Belgian case (C-604/22) regarding the auctioning of personal data for advertising purposes, clarified the definition of “personal data” in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The court had to consider whether a “Transparency and Consent String” (TC String) which is used by advertisers, in conjunction with cookies, to trade supposedly anonymised user data, fell outside the scope of personal data under the GDPR. It concluded that “the TC String contains information concerning an identifiable user and therefore constitutes personal data within the meaning of the GDPR.” This rather technical judgment should serve as a warning to online advertisers who trade user data, and encourage them to conduct fresh audits to ensure they are not inadvertently breaching any of their data protection obligations. According to the TLT data protection team, although this is an EU ruling, it has the potential to impact UK companies “whether by virtue of those organisations being directly caught by the EU GDPR’s extra-territorial scope, or as a helpful indication of how similar UK GDPR concepts may be interpreted.”

Newsletter Articles

Copyright, copywriting and AI

Since ChatGPT was released to the public in November 2022, countless articles have been written about how generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) will improve the efficiency of white collar workers, including legal professionals, and perhaps eventually lead to job losses. Ironically, it’s the very people writing about the revolutionary potential of this technology who have been most directly impacted. Alex Heshmaty explains how copywriters and journalists have been impacted by GenAI, and considers whether copyright law provides any defence against the displacement of human writers by machines:
Copyright and copywriting: AI challenges

ICLR and free law

The idea that the law should be freely accessible to all the people is nothing new, but it is technology that has enabled that aspiration to be realised. ICLR has taken advantage of that to provide, alongside its reported case law subscription service, a freely accessible version of both unreported judgments and legislation. Recent developments have enabled that provision to be more complete and convenient than ever before. Paul Magrath of ICLR explains:
How ICLR is leveraging free law

Online Safety Act 2024

After a long time in the making, the Online Safety Act finally received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023. According to the accompanying Government press release, the Act “places legal responsibility on tech companies to prevent and rapidly remove illegal content” and aims “to stop children seeing material that is harmful to them”. Alex Heshmaty explains the main implications of the new legislation, and how it will affect online businesses:
The Online Safety Act 2023: a primer

Legal technology

4 ways technology is changing the face of private client practice – LEAP
3 ways to boost productivity with an effective legal software platform – LEAP
LEAP and WillSuite launch new end-to-end digital solution for estate planning and management

Practice management

6 key reasons why SME law firms should develop a sustainability strategy for 2024 – LEAPLaw feature

CV fraud

An investigation into ‘industrial scale’ qualifications fraud is currently ongoing in the NHS, following claims that over 700 healthcare workers used proxies to complete tests in Nigeria, allowing them to work in the UK. What more can organisations do to protect themselves from acts of deliberate CV fraud – are there processes that can and should be utilised to detect deception? Sarah Rushton of Buckles Law explores the issue in-depth, detailing the possible consequences that could be incurred if applications are not thoroughly sense checked:
Being dishonest on a CV can be a costly mistake for all concerned

Content and contributions

The Internet for Lawyers Newsletter aims to help you understand the internet and the legal issues it raises, guide you through the legal resources and tools available online, and assist you in the practical application of internet services to your legal practice.

The Newsletter is edited and published by Nick Holmes of infolaw Limited, assisted by technology editor Alex Heshmaty of Legal Words.Infolaw also publishes articles by its partners, lawyers and other experts in the legal industry in its Partner Showcase and on Venables Legal Resources.To maintain the quality of our content, we welcome contributions from practising and academic lawyers and other domain experts. To pay the bills we also carry sponsored content and advertising.For all enquiries about contributions, sponsorship or advertising, just reply to this email.And please do forward this to colleagues who may find it of interest. They can subscribe directly using this form.