UK parliamentary committees highlight ongoing copyright challenges for AI policy

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Two reports on artificial intelligence (AI) published recently by UK Select Committees have highlighted various ongoing challenges for AI policymakers on issues around intellectual property, specifically copyright.

The Governance of Artificial Intelligence

The Science, Innovation and Technology Select Committee recently published its interim report: The Governance of Artificial Intelligence, following its inquiry into the impact of AI on various sectors.

The committee’s high-level report identifies 12 ‘challenges’ of AI governance that policymakers should address to secure public safety and confidence in AI. One key challenge is the ‘intellectual property and copyright challenge’, which highlights the importance of protecting the rights of content creators whose copyrighted works may be used by AI models and tools.

The report flags that concerns have been raised by some in relation to the practice of web ‘scraping’. This is where copyrighted works obtained from public online sources are fed into an AI model that ‘learns’ from factual and statistical features of those works. This learning is used to generate new works.

The report indicates that some in the creative industries have expressed a desire to collaborate with the AI sector to develop a licensing framework for the use of copyrighted materials in training AI. The report also notes that the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), in discussions with field leaders in various sectors, is looking at developing a voluntary code of practice on copyright and AI. There has not yet been an official update on the progress of these discussions, but for a glimpse at what sorts of issues led to initial calls for a code of practice to be established, see our earlier article on the rise of AI-generated music here.

Connected Tech: AI and Creative Technology

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee also recently published its report: Connected Tech: AI and Creative Technology, in which it recommends that the UK government does not pursue proposals suggested by the UKIPO to introduce a broad copyright exemption for commercial text and data mining (TDM). For more detail on the UKIPO’s proposals, see our earlier analysis here. In brief, however, the UKIPO’s key proposal (following a public consultation) was to introduce a new exception to copyright and database rights for commercial TDM with no option for rights holders to ‘opt out’.

While the report acknowledges that the Government has already confirmed that it will not be proceeding with these proposals (see our article here), the recommendation not to pursue them clearly shows a particular strength of feeling amongst the Committee on this issue.

We will be keeping our eyes peeled for the UK government’s responses to the recommendations set out in both committees’ reports, which are due within the next two months. November 2023 will see the UK host the world’s first summit on AI safety where international governments, leading AI companies and experts in research will unite for talks on the safe development and use of frontier AI technology.

While copyright issues have not been identified as one of the Government’s five objectives for the summit, both reports clearly come at an important time for the future of AI governance in the UK and beyond.

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