Government working on code of practice on copyright and AI

Intellectual Property Offices publishes details of ongoing work, including terms of reference and members of working group. 

We’ve been reporting on artificial intelligence a lot recently. AI is being used to diagnose medical conditions more quickly, saving lives, while a new report suggests 40% of all jobs will be affected by AI. Then there’s the question of whether AI poses an existential threat. The government is now taking steps to address the issues of AI relating to copyright.

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Advances in digital technologies such as AI are already having an impact on business and it’s thought they will be a significant contributor to future competitiveness, productivity, and sustainable growth. Government figures show that the UK digital sector contributed 7.4% of total GVA in 2022, growing three times faster than the rest of the economy. There are more than 85,000 tech start-ups and scale-ups in the UK, providing over 3m jobs. 

Yet there are also serious concerns about the way AI works, makes use of intellectual property and could impact particular industries. For example, in June, the Society of Authors published practical steps for its members to protect themselves and their work from the impact of new technologies. ‘AI learns by accessing content and copying it briefly before deleting it,’ explains the SoA guidance, ‘after which the system will remember what it has learned. If the copying takes place without the permission of the copyright holder, it is an infringement of copyright under UK law even though the copy is held only briefly by the AI before being deleted.’ 

The government is now working on a voluntary code of practice that aims to balance these competing interests. According to a statement published by the Intellectual Property Office, this will ‘make licences for data mining more available,’ and, ‘help to overcome barriers that AI firms and users currently face,’ while at the same time, ‘ensure there are protections for rights holders.’ The intention is to ensure that, ‘the UK copyright framework promotes and rewards investment in creativity. It also supports the ambition for the UK to be a world leader in research and AI innovation.’ 

In March, a review led by Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, made a number of recommendations: 

  1. Work with regulators to develop a ‘multi-regulator sandbox’ for AI to be in operation within the next six months 
  1. Announce a clear policy position on the relationship between intellectual property law and generative AI to provide confidence to innovators and investors. 
  1. Facilitate greater industry access to public data and prioritise wider data sharing and linkage across the public sector to help deliver the government’s public services transformation programme. 
  1. Bring forward the Future of Transport Bill to unlock innovation across automated transport applications. 

The report also identified some specific, short-term actions that could improve the regulatory landscape, in areas such as drones, cyber security, and space and satellite technologies. This review and the government’s response will be considered by the technical working group now established to develop the voluntary code of practice. 

The working group, which first met on 5 June, will identify, develop and codify good practice on the use of copyright, performance and database material in relation to AI, including data mining. The IPO has published terms of reference and membership of the working group. will, of course, report on developments of the group’s important work. 

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