Artificial intelligence: the fifth industrial revolution or the end of the world?

Will AI unleash the fifth industrial revolution or will it bring about the end of the world as we know it? The truth lies somewhere in between these two extreme views. Love it or loathe it, AI is here to stay. Since generative AI tool ChatGPT was released in late 2022, the discussion has hotted up, with new articles appearing every day about how AI will transform the way we work and study, kill off some areas of work and kickstart others.

In our latest podcast, ‘AI: the fifth revolution?’, our experts dissect the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI, what implications it may have for the legal sector, and the uneasy fit between copyright law and AI.

How is AI being used in the legal sector?

According to our Technology & Digital Economy Co-Lead John Gray, lawyers have been using AI in a rudimentary form for some time now. For example, AI can be used for searching documents in a litigation matter, or for reviewing documents of a target company that another company wants to acquire.

‘AI saves time. Computer systems can analyse more information more thoroughly than humans can in a tiny fraction of the time. This saves on human resources because the work of a relatively unskilled paralegal can, in theory, be undertaken by a computer system,’ he said.

‘Another benefit of AI is the production of higher quality work. Software doesn’t get fatigued or distracted, unlike lawyers. When AI performs these tasks, it helps lawyers stay focused because it removes some of the drudgery from daily work. This enables a lawyer to spend more time on high-value intellectual activity.’

While AI brings benefits, Mr Gray cautioned that there are limitations to consider.

‘ChatGPT is based on text that’s found on the internet and it’s only as accurate as the text on the internet. And we all know that the internet contains a lot of misinformation. So ChatGPT is exposed to not just errors of fact but also errors of law,’ he said.

‘It’s best for lawyers to see ChatGPT as a useful tool, something that at this point in time doesn’t replace lawyers – and perhaps never will. I just don’t see how any lawyer can possibly discharge their professional duty to exercise due care by overreliance on ChatGPT or similar AI tools.’

How could AI change the way legal services are delivered in the future?

Potential changes that could be brought about by generative AI include lower costs for clients and the ability for clients to self-serve using automated tools, said Mr Gray.

‘If you have a team of 35 paralegals trawling large volumes of documents for relatively straightforward information, such as the use of the word “privilege”, then a software system would be cheaper to operate. That translates into lower legal fees for clients, or more value in other forms, such as faster turnaround.

‘Another possibility is that clients will self-serve using automated tools, for example to generate their own confidentiality agreements or their own statements of claim.

‘Most importantly, I think we should be entitled to see an improvement in quality. AI can explore huge volumes of case law and academic texts to help produce more accurate legal advice.’

How does AI affect copyright laws?

One area that may need further regulation and clarification is the intersection of AI generated content with copyright laws.

‘It’s fair to say that in the area of where copyright fits in with AI generated content that this is an uneasy fit,’ said Technology & Digital Economy Co-Lead Ben Hamilton.

Copyright applies to written content, paintings and drawings, films and sound recordings. The internet is full of written text, images, photographs and graphic elements, and sometimes the use of these images are governed by terms and conditions, he said.

‘There is often a misconception that just because something is on the web that there’s no copyright, when in fact it’s often the opposite. There’s plenty of content available on websites that is subject to copyright protection.’

Another fundamental question is whether copyright exists in AI generated works. Mr Hamilton said the way a work is expressed is a key copyright concept, but what is also key is the notion of authorship, as copyright protects an author’s individual expression.

‘In the area of AI generated content, often there is no human author. If there was an “author”, it might be regarded as a computer program and this issue will be fatal in terms of owning copyright because it’s pretty clear that under the Australian Copyright Act that there needs to be a human author.’

What regulation is needed for AI?

Both Mr Gray and Mr Hamilton agreed that AI is a fast-evolving area and regulation will be needed.

‘Copyright law is continually adapting and changing as technology changes. This is an instance where law reform should be looked at,’ said Mr Hamilton.

‘I don’t think any new regulations specific to the legal profession are required. The profession will need some clarity around questions such as copyright and ethical considerations. We will have to train law students and young lawyers in the use of AI as it becomes integrated in legal practice,’ said Mr Gray.

What are some other implications of AI?

Tune into our ‘AI: the fifth industrial revolution?’ podcast to hear from our experts about further implications of AI for business.


Lisa Ziegert

Director – Client Solutions

John Gray

Partner, Technology & Digital Economy Co-Lead and NSW Government Co-Lead

Ben Hamilton

Partner & Technology and Digital Economy Co-Lead

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