Computer Generated Lawyers

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Lawyer shakes hand with robot

You learn to speak a different language when you're on the internet. No, I’m not talking about Spanish or Russian. I’m talking about the languages that surround the niches you are involved in. It doesn’t matter if you have a hobby in magic or knitting; you will use language around those topics differently.  One term common in the world we inhabit as the writers of this newsletter is “SEO.” This stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” and it is a tool that can get more traffic to your website. Today’s story concerns how far some will go to improve their SEO numbers. 

If you run a website (or newsletter), you may need to use images found online. However, you must be careful when using these because the last thing you want is a letter from a lawyer. Copyright law can be tricky and lead to expensive lawsuits. That's why places like Buzzfeed and Vice have deleted thousands of photos on their websites. It’s not worth a copyright infringement notice ending up in your email. 

Well, that is what Ernie Smith, the writer behind Tedium, woke up to last month.  Commonwealth Legal’s intellectual Property division reached out to Smith, claiming a photo used of a keyfob was the copyright of their client Tech4Gods. While some copyright notices ask for monetary compensation or the image to be taken down, they only wanted a credit with a link. 

Okay, this is where it gets interesting. The firm in question doesn't exist. Their website claims to be operating out of the 4th floor of 3909 N 16th St on the fourth floor. Well, as pointed out in the Smith’s Mastodon thread, this is the image you get when you look for it on Google Maps.

I’m no genius, but that building doesn’t have four floors. It also doesn’t match the building on its website!

Okay, but if you go to the website, will you see their lawyers? Nope. What you will get is a page of fake names and photos of people with thousand-yard stares. After grabbing a few of the faces and reverse image-searching them, I found other fake personas with the same photos, and it all leads back to a website that makes AI-generated people that don’t exist. Even the logo looks as if it came out of a prompt given to the AI.

We had an actual lawyer using AI to write briefs. Now, we have AI lawyers threatening lawsuits.

So, the question has to be, “Why?” Why use fake AI lawyers? Why threaten a copyright lawsuit and only stand down if they link to a website?

They want backlinks. This is a fancy way of saying that the more websites link to your website, the better your SEO. The better your SEO, the more people visit your website and the more potential eyes on advertisements.

While we could speculate about whether the people from Tech4Gods are behind this or the utility of threatening lawsuits to improve your SEO, the main issue is how AI is being used. We have an AI-generated legal team sending fake claims of copyright violation. The world is getting murkier.

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