Michael Schumacher’s family to take legal action over magazine’s ‘AI interview’

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Michael Schumacher’s family is preparing to take legal action over an article published by a magazine which presented it as the “first interview” with him since his accident almost 10 years ago.

The seven-times world champion suffered brain injuries when he fell while skiing in December 2013. He has not been seen in public since and his family have kept details of his condition private.

This week German magazine Die Aktuelle ran an image of Schumacher on its front cover promising “the first interview” with him, calling it a “world sensation”. However the publication also described the article as “deceptively real”.

The two-page article is titled “my life has totally changed” and features quotes seemingly from Schumacher discussing his recovery and his family, but points out afterwards that: “The interview was online. On a page that has to do with artificial intelligence, or AI for short.”

“There are actually internet sites where you can chat with celebrities,” it adds. One such site, character.ai, is referenced in the piece. A disclaimer on that site notes: “Everything Characters say is made up! Don’t trust everything they say or take them too seriously.”

A representative for the Schumacher family confirmed to RaceFans they plan to take legal action in response to the article.

The family has declined to discuss Schumacher’s condition in the years since his crash. “‘Private is private’ he always said,” his wife Corinna Schumacher explained in a documentary produced about him in 2021.

“It’s very important to me that he can continue to enjoy his private life as much as possible, Michael always protected us, now we are protecting Michael.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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18 comments on “Michael Schumacher’s family to take legal action over magazine’s ‘AI interview’”

  1. and so they should.
    Trying to profit by lying about someone who can’t respond has to be a new low even for gutter press.
    They be fined and then thrown from a fast moving vehicle in my opinion.

    1. “should be fined” ofc ;)

    2. Yeah, this really should not happen. It is unethical, it invading the privacy of Schumacher and his family and it is profiteering of that as well.

      This needs to be stopped clearly now, to prevent it from becoming a widely used grey area.

      1. @bascb whilst what that publication has done is unpleasant and unethical, the legal systems in most countries has been structured for a long time around the concept of an individual or a corporation producing and publishing these sorts of articles.

        However, we now have the issue that AI generated articles currently fall through the gaps between many different pieces of legislation, and Germany in particular seems to be one country where slow progress has been made on how to potentially manage the legal implications from using AI for different purposes. Whilst I suspect there would be many here supporting them taking action against this publication, how exactly the law is going to apply to such cases of AI generated material is going to be a difficult challenge for Schumacher’s family to work their way through.

  2. I agree this is a new low. Disgusting so called journalism.

  3. Rightly so – take Die Aktuelle to the cleaners – there is no place in “Journalism” for people like that.

    1. Absolutely, but where do you draw the line? The article was marketed in a misleading way and likely edited to be misleading, but only the reporter gets it in the neck. This is a microcosm of the good and bad aspects of freedom to express one’s self. You can think, say and write what you want provided it does not break any laws, but if you write something that is fake, is it creative writing or does it come with malicious intent, or even innocent intent to entertain? There is no real specific criminal law that I know of in Germany against what they’ve done i.e. badly misrepresenting an article written by an AI, but if they’ve caused harm to the family, or damage to their reputation or finances, they can be sued for reparations.

      This is going to happen more and more, and it’s going to become harder and harder to understand what is the truth as AI develops in the unfettered environment of the internet. Legislation always lags behind innovation, but with the speed of innovation, the gap is becoming unbridgeable. Innovation has accelerated out of site of the law!

      Should there be a set of laws in every country about not telling lies? Yes, to a point, and usually there are but generally, these are about advertising or false representation. If it becomes against the law to lie, whose truth are you allowed to tell? See how well that is going in various countries around the world right now! If draconian anti lie laws can be applied to a journalist, they can be applied to you. Do you want that? I don’t. Thought police anyone, 1984?

      1. So its OK to profit, while making a mockery of someone’s wellbeing or health status?????

        1. That’s not what I said and you know it. Malicious mockery is not Ok, but mockery in and of itself is free expression and it’s this kind of virtue signalling outrage you have that is also a problem because what they have done is objectionable and disagreeable, but not illegal.
          That is not Ok, but neither is restricting free expression either. The line must be drawn somewhere, but in this ever, and faster changing environment, where do you draw the line? The bulk of the world is currently reliant on moral norms for behavioural control which are, unfortunately, being eroded gradually, especially with innovation opening new creative avenues. With the speed of innovation and the slowness of legislation, the gap between what is being done and how it is eventually controlled is getting longer. What we can’t have is massive, sweeping criminal code control that requires the ‘truth’ as quite often, the truth is entirely dependant on where you stand, and with whom. What we have at the moment, and what we’re going to see more and more of, is personal responsibility to object, which the Schumacher family need to pursue through the civil judiciary, a.k.a. damages rather than punishment or control. It is a very difficult dilemma and there is no right answer in the round.

      2. You draw the line by having strict regulations about the use and disclosure of AI content in journalism, with equally strict and severe penalties.

      3. Sandwhichhands
        20th April 2023, 16:10

        I certainly understand the point you are reaching for but this instance is probably not the best starting point. It’s much easier to draw a distinction between computer generated content and human lies.

  4. How did they think that publishing this wasn’t a terrible idea that would backfire horribly for them?

  5. I saw an article on a Hungarian site where the clickbait title was something like ‘It happened! The Schumacher family is mourning – her daughter shared the devastating news’ if opened you’d see it’s about one of the family’s horse died Schumacher also used to ride.

    Utterly disgusting, only thing I can do is to make sure I click on my news feed never to show an article from that site again

  6. The article is ethically grotesque. The journalists and editor involved should be barred from whatever national journalist association that Germany has. If the magazine went under paying for reparations, it would surely be a plus.
    My sympathies for the Schumacher family having to suffer this kind of abuse.

  7. I still don’t get why the family don’t just announce he’s brain dead and move on. You never saw articles about Ariel Sharon giving interviews during his 8 years in a coma. Seems like they are in denial. The info vacuum on Schumacher is the only reason that these articles are published.

    1. I bet if they do this some people will start making memes about “brain-dead” zombie Schumi. This world is crazy. I’m ok with the fact that one day we’ll just hear he peacefully passed away.

    2. Really sad, but yes, also disappointed that they refuse to share any news, and agree that is the reason why stuff like this happens.

  8. what else were they expecting? it’s probably priced in for the publicity… some people are just hopeless

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