UK government plans to spend over £100M on AI ... but copyright code is held up

'Pro-innovation' but perhaps not for the folks whose data was trained on

The UK government is to spend over £100 million ($125 million) to support regulators and researchers as it publishes its response to the AI Regulation White Paper consultation.

Dubbed a "pro-innovation approach to AI regulation," one could also regard the outcome as more "wait and see" as lawmakers steer clear of imposing too many restrictions and risk making the UK less attractive for AI investors.

According to the UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan MP, the UK's "common sense, pragmatic approach has been welcomed and endorsed both by the companies at the frontier of AI development and leading AI safety experts."

"Google DeepMind, Microsoft, OpenAI, and Anthropic all supported the UK's approach, as did Britain's budding AI startup scene, and many leading voices in academia and civil society."

But is legislation needed to deal with the technology? Yes, just not right now, according to the UK government.

"The technology is rapidly developing, and the risks and most appropriate mitigations are still not fully understood."

"The UK government will not rush to legislate, or risk implementing 'quick-fix' rules that would soon become outdated or ineffective. Instead, the government's context-based approach means existing regulators are empowered to address AI risks in a targeted way."

The plan is to load up regulators with the responsibility for dealing with the brave new world of AI. Key bodies, such as Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), have been asked to publish their strategies for dealing with the technology by April 30 and come up with a plan for regulating AI over the coming year.

A steering committee will also be launched to "support and guide the activities of a formal regulator coordination structure."

Code of Practice on Intellectual property in AI held up – report

Meanwhile, the proposed UK Intellectual Property Office code of practice on copyright and AI has been held up, despite warnings in a recent report from a House of Lords Committee that the UK government should not allow big tech firms behind the most sophisticated large language models to exploit copyrighted materials when building them.

The FT reported this week that despite the government working on recommendations that it should clarify the relationship between intellectual property and generative AI, the process is not moving forward as negotiations with industry "stakeholders" have hit a wall. The paper says execs couldn't or wouldn't sign off on a voluntary code of practice, so the ball is back in the Department for Science Innovation and Technology's court.

When we asked DSIT about this, a spokesperson said: "This government is committed to supporting the AI and creative industries sectors so that they continue to flourish and are able to compete internationally.

"We are continuing to engage with stakeholders to work towards a shared approach which allows our AI and creative sectors to grow together. We will set out further proposals on the way forward soon."

It plans to spend £10 million ($12.58 million) on upskilling regulators, with £90 million ($113 million) going towards nine new research hubs across the UK and a partnership with the US on responsible AI.

Professor Laurence Brooks of the University of Sheffield, which is set to receive a slice of the funding pie, said: "AI has the potential to be of transformational benefit to the world, and already exists within so many aspects of our lives. But, as with other digital technologies, it also has the potential for ignorant and unfair use.

"The difference is the choices we make, what we call responsible AI."

Let's not scare off business

Considering the pace of AI development, the UK government's response appears cautious and shows a distinct reluctance to charge headlong into legislation. Its approach is one of voluntary measures and collaboration. However, it also acknowledges that "the challenges posed by AI technologies will ultimately require legislative action in every country once understanding of risk has matured."

Nader Henein, VP analyst at Gartner, also noted the apparent lack of urgency in the UK government's response. Henein said: "A large portion of the UK government's regulatory energy is currently buried under the long-awaited modernization of 600 EU-era laws including the Data Protection Act of 2018 (UK GDPR).

"As such it is not surprising that this response lacks the requisite drive or funding to take basic steps to regulate a technology that has been developing over the past five decades and that will soon be making many of the decisions impacting British citizens.

"Furthermore, innovation – by its nature – finds a way (to work within regulation).

"But let me turn the concern around regulation stifling innovation on its head, would you have delayed the introduction of seat belts, crumple zones and air bags for fear of having these 'regulations' slow down developments in the automotive industry?" ®

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