The launch of the generative AI tool, ChatGPT, in late 2022 unleashed a torrent of commentary – from doomsday predictions of malevolent machines taking over, to utopian visions of greater corporate efficiency, increased customer satisfaction, and an improved bottom line.

As with any new technology, in the mix of commercial opportunities and costs are a raft of legal risks that are often overlooked until something goes wrong.

What does ChatGPT do?

ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to perform ‘natural language processing’ tasks. It can be used to allow individuals to have human-like conversations (some people say it’s a chatbot that actually works), or to generate content incredibly quickly. ChatGPT, and other ‘generative AI’ tools are already being used by businesses as they seek to find efficiencies in every more competitive markets.

Why does that create legal risk for pubs and bars?

ChatGPT is a hungry beast. As with many AI tools, it needs a constant supply of new content to learn and improve – its ability to process language naturally is dependent on its ability to see a wide range of language and other content in the first place. Any pub or bar deploying ChatGPT in its operations will be feeding it with information from which it can learn.

If that content is original material created by someone else (maybe a clever marketing campaign you want to adapt for your estate, a great pub quiz format you want to use in your pubs, or a menu from a competitor brand you’re using for inspiration, or a social media campaign you want to mimic) then inputting it into ChatGPT could be a breach of intellectual property rights for which you’re liable. Intellectual property law doesn’t stop applying just because a new technology is being deployed.

Or if you’re encouraging your customers to engage directly (perhaps as a chatbot to assist with reservations or general enquiries) then you could be asking them to provide their personal data and allow it to be used by the AI tool in ways not covered by your privacy notice or any permissions you’ve collected – leading to data protection law breaches.

What can I do to manage the legal risks?

There are three key steps in managing the risks that go with using AI tools:

  • Think carefully about what information you’re putting into the tool and be sure you have the necessary rights to do so. That might mean going back to old contracts under which you bought content for use in your business – if those contracts don’t expressly grant you rights to use the content with generative AI tools you will need to contemplate going back to the intellectual property owner to obtain the rights.
  • Consider what your privacy notices say about use of generative AI and (if you are relying on consent for data processing) what your relevant permissions cover and decide if the notices are sufficiently transparent and permissions sufficiently broad for you to encourage your patrons to share their personal data with a third party business you don’t control. You might need to put clear guidelines around any online AI tool deployment to be confident that your customers understand what’s happening to their data if they use those tools.
  • Cast a critical eye over any outputs from ChatGPT that you intend using in your business – like most generative AI, ChatGPT remains under development, and its outputs are not always accurate, don’t always match the brief it’s been given, and could potentially give rise to complaints or legal action from individuals. Adding a human element to the process to at least sense check the outputs can help avoid the most obvious legal mistakes, as well as encourage further iteration of the ChatGPT output to avoid it looking and feeling too much like something automatically generate that could be created by any other business using the technology.


Q. I would like to have a firework display during bonfire night, is there anything I need to know / do to make this happen?

A. You can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use on bonfire night between 15 October to 10 November. At other times you can only buy fireworks from licensed shops. You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for on Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight.

Q. I have a few spare rooms above my pub that I’d like to rent out on Airbnb - is this possible?

A. Before you think about renting rooms (and the forum you rent them on) you may require planning permission. Make sure that you do not invest in beautifully appointed rooms only to find the council stopping you form renting them. If you have the correct permission, then use whatever platform you feel suits your needs best for getting the word out there…  

Q. I’m worried about drunk and disorderly behaviour – can I get in to trouble if someone is drunk in my pub?

A. It is unlawful to serve an intoxicated person, so serving someone or allowing someone who is intoxicated to continue drinking may not only be unlawful but could lead to serious reputational harm if there is an incident because of it. Staff should be trained to look out for any behaviour that might escalate because of the effects of alcohol.

This article was first published in Pub and Bar

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at October 2023. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Date published

19 October 2023


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