Abandon artificial intelligence copyright exemption to protect UK creative industries, MPs say
30 August 2023
The Government must follow through on its pledge and abandon plans to allow AI developers the free use of existing music, literature and works of art for the purposes of training artificial intelligence to come up with new creations, MPs say today.
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In its second report on connected technology, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee warns that the Government’s original plan to exempt text and data mining by AI from copyright protection risks reducing arts and cultural production to mere ‘inputs’ in AI development and shows a clear lack of understanding of the needs of the UK’s creative industries.
The report highlights concerns from across the sector about allowing the developers of AI to mine private intellectual property for profit without sharing with the original creators. The CEO of UK Music has described the exemption, proposed by the IPO in June last year, as a ‘green light to music laundering’, while Universal Music has previously warned of ‘widespread and lasting harm’ if creator rights and compensation were undermined by AI.
The Committee welcomes indications that Ministers are looking again at the proposals and argues that the current framework, which provides an exemption for text and data mining for non-commercial research purposes and otherwise allows creators to licence their work for any further purpose, provides an appropriate balance between innovation and creator rights. In addition, there must be urgent action to improve protections for creatives to prevent misuse of their likeness and performances by emerging technologies such as generative AI.
The report also calls on the Government to ensure support for the creative industries that encourages artists to push the boundaries of creative technology, with examples such as ABBA Voyage and digital art at the Victoria & Albert Museum showing the value of companies and institutions embracing innovation to develop immersive creative and cultural experiences.
However, the Committee concludes that skills shortages in the creative and tech sectors are limiting the growth and potential of creative technology in the UK despite headline successes. The Government must address long-standing UK-wide skills and personnel shortages in the sector via its upcoming Cultural Education Plan, the report adds.
Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “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. The Government must now start to rebuild trust by showing it really understands where the creative industries are coming from and develop a copyright and regulatory regime that properly protects them as AI continues to disrupt traditional cultural production.
The development and use of creative technology is currently being hampered by a shortage in technical skills. For the UK to fulfil its potential as a world leader in the creative industries, the Government must commit to ensuring the right skills are being taught to ensure a pathway for the next generation of digital artists, visual effects professionals and innovators.”
Main findings and recommendations
- The Committee is pleased that the Government has been listening to stakeholders on text and data mining intellectual property for commercial benefit and is encouraged that Ministers are looking again at this. Instead of pursing plans for a broad text and data mining exemption to copyright, the Government should proactively support small AI developers in particular, who may find difficulties in acquiring licences, by reviewing how licensing schemes can be introduced for technical material and how mutually-beneficial arrangements can be struck with rights management organisations and creative industries trade bodies.
- The Government must work to regain the trust of the creative industries following its abortive attempt to introduce a broad text and data mining exemption. The Government should consider how creatives can ensure transparency and, if necessary, recourse and redress if they suspect that AI developers are wrongfully using their works in AI development.
- The Government’s initial handing of the text and data mining exemption to copyright for AI development, though eventually correct, shows a clear lack of understanding of the needs of the UK’s creative industries. All branches of Government need to better understand the impact of AI, and technology more broadly, on the creative industries and be able to defend their interests consistently.
- The Government should ensure support for the creative industries encourages artists to push the boundaries of creativity and technology and is not limited to following the narrow interests of the tech sector. Cultural institutions should be encouraged and supported by the Government to invest in, present and preserve the results of creative technology.
- The tech sector and creative industries are experiencing long-standing skills and personnel shortages that have capped the potential for growth. The Government’s forthcoming Cultural Education Plan should explicitly discuss how educators can combine digital skills provision with creative and cultural education to nurture the next generation of digital artists, visual effects professionals and innovators in creative technology to address long-running skills shortages in the sector.
- The rapid growth of generative artificial intelligence and the impact this is already having on the ability of artists to protect their moral rights means that urgent action is necessary. The Government should improve protections for creatives to prevent misuse of their likeness and performances by emerging technologies such as generative AI. At minimum, this should involve bringing forward ratification of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances by the time it responds to this report.