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John Farmer's Column  

John wears two hats – columnist and lawyer. He writes a monthly column, Leading-Edge Law, for the Richmond Times-Dispatch on breaking legal issues in the e-commerce, intellectual property and high-tech fields. He’s been writing columns since 1998.
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Will Copyright Law Wipe Out Generative AIs Such As ChatGPT?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2023

Do you fear generative AIs such as ChatGPT will destroy your earning power? Do you worry about AIs turning on mankind? If you’re hoping for a savior to smite generative AI, could copyright law be it? By analogy, think of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. In it, Martians, who have superior military Read the full article…

Using an AI Service for Business Contracting: Are We There Yet?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2023

Since the public launch of ChatGPT late last year, I have been inundated with solicitations from companies offering new AI tools for business contracting. Are they ready for prime time? These AI products generally claim they can do three things: summarize a contract, review a contract for certain kinds of terms (e.g., limitation on liability), Read the full article…

Subscribe to John’s Substack – More Detailed Versions of Monthly Columns

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Here’s my new Substack: johnfarmer.substack.comPlease consider subscribing. When I write my monthly column for the newspaper, I must squeeze it down to about 750 words for publication purposes. Frequently, my good final draft is longer, sometimes twice as long. I must cut important information about the topic to meet the word limit. On my Substack, Read the full article…

ChatGPT Upgraded to GPT-4 is Here. Can You Trust It for Important Business Tasks?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

By now, you have certainly heard of ChatGPT. It’s the generative artificial intelligence (AI) that can be used to produce amazing content, such as a term paper about a book. OpenAI, which offers ChatGPT, recently made a more powerful version available to those who pay for a subscription, which costs $20 a month. The free Read the full article…

Is ChatGPT Ready to Make Legal Services Cheaper?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

Can ChatGPT, as it currently exists, make lawyers more efficient and, thus, less expensive? As you probably know, it’s a generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot. It can crank out authoritative-sounding, well-written prose. It also sometimes says crazy things. In a recent experiment using ChatGPT through the Microsoft Bing search engine, it expressed desires to steal Read the full article…

Businesses Need to Understand the Copyright Implications of Using ChatGPT

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

By now, you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT. It’s an artificial intelligence (“AI”) site offered by a company called OpenAI. ChatGPT and its ilk will dramatically affect content creators. It can be used to write shockingly good essays and computer code. Businesses could use it to compose explanations and summaries of things. But it has limited Read the full article…

Will Colleges Lose Their Trademark Monopoly on Selling Sports Fan Gear?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Let’s take a reader poll: When you see someone wearing a T-shirt with the name or logo of a college, do you think that either the college made the item or licensed the manufacturer to do so? Do you think the law requires you to have a license from a college to put its name Read the full article…

The Supreme Court Will be Dragged into the Social Media Censorship Dispute. Businesses Should Care.

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

It looks like the Supreme Court will be forced to enter the social media free-speech policy war. While this has enormous implications for society, it also may have consequences for businesses. Conservatives rail against what they perceive as censorship by social media companies, especially Twitter and Facebook. Responding to that criticism, Florida and Texas enacted Read the full article…

Reelin’ in the Legal Problems: Is a Local Yacht Rock Band’s Steely Dan Tribute Wine a Trademark Problem?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Let’s take a survey. There’s a new wine-in-a-can product called “Steely Can.” Three kinds of wine are offered: “Rosé Darling,” “Kid Chardonnay,” and “Deacon Red.” If you are over, say, 40, you will get the reference to the rock-jazz band Steely Dan and three of its most famous songs: “Rose Darling,” “Kid Charlemagne,” and “Deacon Read the full article…

Can You Agree with Competitors to Not Target Each Other in Google Ads?

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

If you own a business, are Google Ads your best friend, worst enemy, or vexing frenemy? These are the ads that show up in Google search results, usually at the top. Businesses hate it when a competitor runs a Google Ad triggered by a search of its name. For example, Spacely Sprockets hates it when Read the full article…