AI – Enhancement or unprecedented legal risk?

Artificial Intelligence
01 Jul 2024

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising various sectors globally, from enhancing business efficiencies to providing innovative solutions in healthcare, education, and beyond. AI is everywhere, even in applications you may not know about. Therefore, with its rise comes a set of legal implications that must be carefully navigated.

 The legal landscape of Artificial Intelligence

One of the primary legal concerns with AI is data protection. AI systems rely heavily on data, often processing vast amounts of personal information. In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (“POPIA”) governs data privacy. Companies utilising AI must ensure compliance with POPIA by securing explicit consent from individuals before processing their data, implementing robust security measures, and allowing individuals the right to access and correct their data.

AI can create original works such as music, art, and inventions. However, determining the ownership of such creations poses legal challenges. At present, there is ongoing debate on whether AI-generated works should be eligible for copyright, patents, or trademarks, and if so, how ownership should be assigned.

AI systems can make autonomous decisions, raising questions about liability when things go wrong. For example, if an AI-driven vehicle causes an accident, determining who is responsible can be complex, and our legal system lacks specific provisions addressing AI liability. Thus, businesses must establish clear guidelines and contracts outlining responsibility and accountability for AI systems.

The most frightening of these is that artificial intelligence (AI) can be used for malicious activities, including cybercrimes, which have serious legal consequences. There’s also the issue of deep fakes and misinformation, where AI-generated content blurs the line between real and fake, necessitating caution and verification

Effective governance and regulation are essential for responsible AI deployment. This includes setting standards for data use, ensuring transparency, and addressing the societal impact of AI technologies.

Regardless of the planning and foresight required to deploy AI effectively, we cannot deny its ability to process and analyse data at unprecedented speeds, leading to improved efficiency and productivity across various industries. For businesses in South Africa, AI can automate routine tasks, reduce operational costs, and enhance decision-making processes, ultimately driving economic growth. It may also already be in many of the software products businesses use – without even knowing it.


Businesses and policymakers must collaborate to navigate the legal landscape, ensuring that AI is deployed responsibly and ethically. By proactively addressing these legal implications, South Africa can harness AI’s full potential to drive innovation and economic growth while safeguarding the rights and interests of its citizens. For legal advice on integrating AI into your business operations or understanding the regulatory requirements, please get in touch with our experienced team at SchoemanLaw Inc.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Nicolene Schoeman-Louw

Mrs Nicolene Schoeman – Louw founded the firm in 2007, aged 24, and is now the Managing Director of the firm. Nicolene is an admitted Attorney of the High Court... Read more about Nicolene Schoeman-Louw


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