The Legal Aspects of Online Writing and Publishing in Light of the ChatGPT Controversy

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In light of the recent controversy surrounding OpenAI’s ChatGPT, we take a look at some of the legal aspects when it comes to online writing and publishing. With technology rapidly advancing, so too does the need for awareness when it comes to our rights as writers, publishers and users.

What are My Rights as an Online Writer?

As an online writer, you have several important rights that should be respected by any publisher or platform you work with. These include copyright protection, defamation law protection and licensing agreements between yourself and your clients/publishers. Copyright is especially important here, as published works can often be shared and referenced without any written permission from the original author. This means that you should ensure that all of your work is properly protected with a copyright before it is posted online.

What are My Rights when it Comes to Defamation Law?

Defamation law protects authors from having their work misrepresented or attributed to them without prior consent. In the case of OpenAI’s ChatGPT controversy, an Australian mayor has brought a possible defamation lawsuit against the makers of the chatbot for statements made by the bot which he believes were defamatory towards him. If a publisher or platform fails to take appropriate action when it comes to defamatory content, they could face hefty legal consequences depending on the severity of the defamatory statement.

What are My Rights When it Comes to Licensing Agreements?

Licensing agreements are a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions between an author and their publisher or platform. This is especially pertinent when discussing online publishing, as publishers may have very specific terms of service or rules in place which they expect authors to adhere to. It’s important to ensure that you fully understand all of the clauses included in your licensing agreement before signing off on it, as any breach can have serious legal consequences for both parties involved.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although there has always been a culture of sharing and a degree of free speech on the web, uploading content to a website or platform that’s publicly available should still be regarded as publishing and, therefore, subject to many different publishing laws. In the case of ChatGPT, it’s an algorithm that has been trained on content gathered from third-party sources online and, therefore has no ‘intent’ to defame anyone, even though it has now become a popular and trusted source of information itself.

In the case of Mr Hood, it could be argued that being a public figure such as a mayor, his public reputation is of particular significance and that the third-party sources that ChatGTP’s system got the information from, and the apparent inability of ChatGPT to check the accuracy of what it produces may be central points in the case, should it go to court. When businesses use ChatGPT to produce content that they intend to publish online it is therefore worth conducting some basic fact checks, particularly where specific people and organisations are named. ChatGPT’s existence, however, shouldn’t change the fact that businesses should always be aware that there are many laws to adhere to when publishing online and that compliance is always an important issue.


When it comes to writing and publishing content online, it’s important to be aware of your rights as an author, publisher, and user. Copyright protection, defamation law, and licensing agreements all play a role in protecting writers from having their work misused or misrepresented. By understanding these legal aspects of online publishing, authors can ensure that their rights are respected and take appropriate action when needed.