A U.K. Parliament committee is calling on the British government to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) developers are prevented from the free use of copyright-protected musical works for training purposes — and to commit to abandoning much-criticized plans that opponents say would significantly weaken copyright protections for artists and rights holders.
A report from the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee published Wednesday (Aug. 30) says that any future legislation governing the use of AI technology in the United Kingdom, the world’s third-biggest music market, must not risk “reducing arts and cultural production to mere ‘inputs’ in AI development.”
Committee members also state that urgent action must be taken to improve protections for artists and creators against the misuse of their likenesses, image rights and performances by emerging technologies such as generative AI.
The report comes more than a year after U.K. government body The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) first proposed the introduction of a new text and data mining (TDM) exception allowing AI developers to freely use copyright-protected works for commercial purposes.
Those plans, announced by the IPO last June, gave rights holders no option to opt out of the TDM exception, although they did state that tech developers would still require “lawful access” to any copyright-protected data, enabling rights holders to agree to license fees and charge for access.
The proposals drew strong criticism from across the creative industries, with Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO of umbrella trade body UK Music, describing them as a “green light to music laundering.” In response, the government announced in February that it had listened to the objections and would no longer be proceeding with the original plans.
The CMS Committee welcomed the change of course but warned that the government’s handling “shows a clear lack of understanding of the needs of the U.K.’s creative industries.”
“The chorus of warnings from musicians, authors and artists about the real and lasting harm a failure to protect intellectual property in a world where the influence of AI is growing should be enough for ministers to sit up and take notice,” said CMS Committee chair Dame Caroline Dinenage in a statement.
Dinenage said the government must follow through on its pledge to abandon plans for a text and data mining exception to copyright-protected works and regain the trust of the creative industries by developing “a copyright and regulatory regime that properly protects them” from the potential risks of AI.
The U.K.’s current legal framework, which contains TDM allowances for non-commercial research purposes while also allowing rights holders to commercially license their work, “provides an appropriate balance between innovation and creator rights,” said the committee report.
The U.K.’s moves to police the rapidly evolving AI sector comes as other countries and jurisdictions, including the United States, China and the European Union, explore their own paths toward regulating the nascent technology.
The EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act, which was first proposed in April 2021 and is now being negotiated among politicians in different branches of government, is leading the way as the world’s first comprehensive legislation around AI. It states that generative AI systems will be forced to disclose any content that they produce that is AI-generated — helping differentiate computer-created works from those authored by humans — and provide detailed, publicly available summaries of any copyright-protected music or data they have used for training purposes.
Other provisions in European law, most notably those contained in 2019’s EU Copyright Directive, also deal with AI and text and data mining exceptions of copyrighted content, such as music, although these are more robust than those initially proposed — and since abandoned — by the U.K. government. These EU provisions include allowing rights holders to stop AI systems from using their content for training purposes, or to limit which ones can in order to license that right.
Responding to the CMS Committee’s recommendations, BPI chief executive Jo Twist said it was “essential that artists and rightsholders can work in partnership with technology and that policies do not allow AI to get a free ride, but to always respect human creativity by seeking permission and remunerating the use of creative content.”
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