In-house lawyers urged to get to grips with AI regulation as soon as possible

In-house lawyers urged to get to grips with AI regulation as soon as possible

Pictured (left–right): Sarah Irwin, founder of ITGC and head of legal at Tines, with Barry Scannell, technology consultant at William Fry

In-house lawyers must not wait until the eleventh hour to ensure their companies’ compliance with forthcoming EU regulations on artificial intelligence, an event hosted by Irish Tech General Counsel (ITGC) has heard.

Speaking in William Fry’s offices this morning, technology consultant Barry Scannell warned that the AI Act — which was approved by the European Parliament last month and is likely to be enforced from 2026 — is “not like the GDPR”.

“Three months isn’t going to be enough [to achieve compliance],” he said, noting that compliance will need to be taken into account in fundamental design decisions. “You need to be doing this now. You need to be at least considering it now so you can develop a timeline as a company.”

As companies take part in an “arms race” to implement AI technology in various ways, in-house lawyers will find that “a lot of this is going to fall on your shoulders”, Mr Scannell said.

A wide-ranging presentation showed how the potential implications for AI extend beyond data protection into areas like copyright, with companies having to consider whether they can enforce copyright over AI-generated code or creative content.

Ireland and the UK are “outliers” in providing that copyright over computer-generated content rests with those who arranged its creation, so this may not hold up in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), he pointed out.

He urged lawyers to do as much as possible to keep up-to-date with developments in the field of AI, assess how it will impact their business, and begin auditing contracts and policies from an AI perspective.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of all of us in this area and it’s completely unavoidable,” Mr Scannell said. “It’s going to be really challenging for companies. We’ve a busy few years ahead of us in terms of making sure everything is being implemented properly.”

He added: “People are scared of AI — they don’t understand it fully. You need to start preparing for how you’re going to answer those questions.”

ITGC, founded last year by Sarah Irwin, head of legal at Tines, is a peer forum for in-house legal professionals at tech companies in Ireland. You can find more information on the ITGC website.

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