MPs warn over lack of AI rules for UK’s creative industries

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A group of cross-party MPs have raised concerns that the UK’s failure to create a set of robust rules over how artificial intelligence platforms work with the creative industries was playing into the hands of large tech companies. 

The House of Commons culture, media and sport committee on Wednesday published a report on remuneration and working conditions for professional creatives. 

The MPs found that many artists in the UK had experienced persistent declines in their royalties, in part due to the adoption of digital distribution models, which pay out less to creators than physical distribution systems.

“Talented actors, writers, composers and singers are failing to share in the global success of the UK’s creative industries as the sector struggles to navigate a perfect storm caused by everything from the emergence of AI through to rapid changes in the way content is consumed,” said Dame Caroline Dinenage, committee chair.

“The government needs to play catch-up by plugging the gaps in outdated copyright and intellectual property regulations,” she added.

Many professionals in the music, literary and television industries have expressed particular concern over what the arrival of AI platforms, which can plagiarise and reproduce their work without providing compensation, will mean for their future.

The Financial Times revealed earlier this year that the UK had been forced to shelve plans for a long-awaited code setting out rules on the training of AI models using copyrighted material.

Industry executives from AI, arts and news organisations had been in consultation with the Intellectual Property Office, a government agency, over the code but the parties involved failed to agree on a workable set of proposals.

Jo Twist, chief executive of the BPI, which represents large music labels, said the committee was “right to highlight concerns around generative AI, in particular the alarming rise in the use of copyrighted work without permission or transparency”.

On Wednesday, the committee said it was “particularly disappointed” the working group had not come to an agreement “on creators’ consent and compensation regarding the use of their works to train AI”.

The MPs raised concerns that “the status quo simply favours AI developers, given creators’ concerns that their IP [intellectual property] is already being used in AI development without licence or any practical means of recourse”.

The committee called on the government to ensure creators have proper mechanisms in place to enforce their consent and receive fair compensation when their work is used by AI systems.

The report also called for a “private copying scheme”, which would guarantee that creators are paid when content is shared on digital devices, similar to systems used in Germany, France and Italy.

The government said it would continue to “engage with all relevant stakeholders on issues including AI, copyright and music streaming, to work towards a shared approach which allows both sectors to thrive”. It added that “further proposals” would be set out in due course.

“Although the government asserted that it could consider legislating were agreements not reached,” the committee said, “it has not indicated that it will do so.

“It is unlikely that simply conducting a further period of engagement with the sectors, with no clarity over its overall aims, will have any meaningful effect,” it added. 


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