Praise for MPs’ bid to protect songs and books from AI mining

Praise for MPs’ bid to protect songs and books from AI mining

by Suswati Basu
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UK trade union Equity, who represents performers and creatives, lauded the proposals by MPs to curb AI mining in order to protect workers’ copyright.

Creatives have welcomed a UK commission report by MPs after the government was urged to reconsider its plans to grant artificial intelligence developers unrestricted access to existing music, literature, and artistic works for AI training purposes. In its second report on connected technology, MPs from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee warned that the proposed exemption from copyright protection for AI-powered text and data mining could devalue the contributions of the arts and culture sector and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the creative industries’ needs.

It comes as prominent authors such as Stephen King and Zadie Smith were among a number of writers to have their works used to train generative AI without their permission.

Read: Authors’ pirated books used to train Generative AI

Former International Executive Vice President of the Recording Industry Association of America, Neil Turkewitz, called it a resistance to “tech determinism.” At the same time, Helienne Lindvall, who is the former Chair of the Ivor Novello Awards and President of the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, was equally supportive of the move.

Calls for strong copyright protections against AI

The report by MPs raised concerns from various segments of the industry about allowing AI developers to profit from mining intellectual property without adequately compensating the original creators, thus breaching copyright. UK Music’s CEO has criticised the proposed exemption, likening it to “music laundering,” while Universal Music has cautioned against potential harm to creator rights and compensation due to AI involvement.

In a statement, UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin called for using AI to enable the arts, “not erode it.” Senior Director of Content Protection at publisher Wiley, Pascal Hetzscholdt, also reposted the report on LinkedIn.

“It’s vital that we ensure AI enables human artistry and creativity, and does not erode it. So, strong copyright and IP protections must at the heart of any approach to seize the opportunities of AI.”

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, UK Music CEO

The committee acknowledged that there are indications that the government is revisiting these plans and asserts that the current framework, which permits text and data mining for non-commercial research while ensuring creators can licence their work for various purposes, strikes a suitable balance between innovation and creator rights. Furthermore, the report by DCMS MPs calls for swift measures to safeguard creators’ likeness, performances, and copyright from potential misuse by emerging technologies like generative AI.

Read: AI open letter: authors including Margaret Atwood urge companies to honour copyright

Additionally, the report highlighted the importance of government support for the creative industries, encouraging the exploration of creative technology boundaries. Examples such as ABBA Voyage and digital art at the Victoria & Albert Museum underscore how embracing innovation can yield immersive cultural experiences.

Rebuilding trust with creative industries

Commenting on the findings, Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, stressed the necessity for the government to understand the concerns of the creative industries and develop a robust copyright and regulatory framework, as well as rebuild trust. She emphasised the importance of nurturing the right skills to position the UK as a global leader in the creative sector.

“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.”

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair

The report presents key recommendations:

  • The government should support smaller AI developers in acquiring licenses and foster mutually-beneficial agreements with rights management organisations and creative industry trade bodies.
  • Mechanisms should be established to ensure transparency and recourse for creators if their works are wrongly utilised in AI development.
  • All branches of government need a better understanding of AI’s impact on creative industries and the ability to consistently safeguard their interests.
  • Government support for creative industries should foster artistic exploration of technology’s potential.
  • The Cultural Education Plan should address the skills gap by combining digital skills with creative and cultural education.
  • Urgent measures are needed to protect creators’ rights from generative AI, including the ratification of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.

As the UK navigates the evolving landscape of AI and creative technology, the report’s recommendations aim to strike a balance between innovation and the preservation of artistic and cultural contributions.

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