Your brilliant ChatGPT idea could leave you with an eye-watering legal bill – here's why

Robotic Hand Assisting Person For Signing Document Over Wooden Desk In The Courtroom
(Image credit: Andrey_Popov via Shutterstock)

ChatGPT has cemented itself as the AI-powered tool that’ll help you with almost anything. Everyone and their mama has been talking about the chatbot and to no surprise. It explains, expands, summarises, creates (I use that word loosely here), and seems to know much about a vast range of products.

However, users should keep in mind that if a lawsuit may come their way, completely at their own expense.

Most people don’t read the terms and conditions when they pop up on whatever app, site, or service they’re using. And let's be honest, why would you? It’s always long and full of boring jargon. We just hit ‘accept’ and move on because most of the time it doesn’t really matter. 

But that might not be the case with ChatGPT. Lance Eliot dug through the terms and conditions we all accept when we sign up with ChatGPT and found some pretty worrying information.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario where you’re using ChatGPT to help you create art, offload some of your daily tasks, or work with you to code a new digital product. Either way, you’re working with ChatGPT and using it frequently.

Now, let's say someone comes forward and claims that the work or service you’ve been providing with ChatGPT has caused them harm. They decide they’re going to sue you. 

Now, no one is excited and hoping for any kind of legal action (except lawyers, I guess) but stay with me here. In this made-up scenario, assume you’ve done the best you could to sincerely provide a good product or service. The person suing you probably knows you’re not going to be their cash cow and drop a ton of money - but they know OpenAI will. So, they would seek to sue OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT, as well as you.

The person suing you both will, of course, argue that your (unintentional, I would hope) efforts to ruin their life via your service or product were aided by ChatGPT, and therefore you and OpenAI should be liable.

Right now you’re probably just worrying about yourself - because why would you worry about a tech giant when you’re just an average person getting sued for what will likely be a huge amount of money? Let OpenAI sort itself out, it can definitely afford to. Having to defend yourself in a lawsuit is incredibly unnerving and could really impact your life going forward.

Now, for the fatal blow 

If you didn’t look closely at the terms and conditions associated with your account creation to use ChatGPT, you’re definitely not alone. As I said above, most people haven’t, and even more people won’t as OpenAI continues to accrue new users.

Well, if you had taken a look, you would have noticed this interesting section:

“Section 7. Indemnification; Disclaimer of Warranties; Limitations on Liability: (a) Indemnity. You will defend, indemnify, and hold harmless us, our affiliates, and our personnel, from and against any claims, losses, and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) arising from or relating to your use of the Services, including your Content, products or services you develop or offer in connection with the Services, and your breach of these Terms or violation of applicable law.”

This basically means that if OpenAI gets sued for something you’ve done using their products, including ChatGPT, you are considered the one liable for “any claims, losses, and expenses (including attorneys’ fees)”. Ouch.

So you’ll have to cover your own legal expenses as well as whatever financial blow you might encounter from the lawsuit, and on top of that, you’ll be covering 100% of the (potentially far greater) court costs and damages that OpenAI could potentially incur.

Over a hundred million people have flocked to the chatbot since the beginning of this year and more people are joining every day, either through OpenAI’s actual site or its integration with Microsoft Bing. People use ChatGPT for all sorts of things, and with a large enough user base and a diverse enough variety of uses, there's bound to be a day when we might see this legal clause in action.

With that in mind, I’m going to hand out some advice: if you plan to use ChatGPT (or one of the many ChatGPT alternatives) for any sort of money-making purpose, tread very carefully. You don’t want to end up on the hook for OpenAI’s legal fees.

Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison. Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place. Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).