MPs ask: Why is it so freakin' hard to get AI giants to pay copyright holders?

Agreement on consent and compensation has failed to materialize

UK lawmakers have slammed the government for its lack of action in protecting copyright holders against the infringement of their intellectual property by developers of artificial intelligence technologies.

In a report from House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, MPs said the government's working group on AI and intellectual property "has failed to come to an agreement between the creative industries and AI developers on creators' consent and compensation regarding the use of their works to train AI."

The stance follows a period in which the UK government has sought to create an image of international leadership in AI. Last year, it hosted an AI Safety Summit with guests including big tech CEOs and heads of state. "I'm completely confident in telling you the UK is doing far more than other countries to keep you safe," said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The UK creative industries have been valued at £109 billion ($136.65 billion), including the global TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the Harry Potter books and films, the works of multiple Grammy award-winner Adele, and Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto franchise.

Yet, according to MPs, industries may not feel their work is safe from the industrialized mimicry of the new generation of AI models.

"The government must ensure that creators have proper mechanisms to enforce their consent and receive fair compensation for the use of their work by AI developers," their report said.

"It should set out measurable objectives for the period of engagement with the AI and rightsholders sectors, which it has said ministers will lead on, and provide a definitive deadline at which it will step in with legislation in order to break any deadlock. We will continue to monitor developments in this area and recommend that our successor Committee do the same next year."

The European Union has already introduced an AI Act. One of its aims is to impose transparency obligations on AI developers regarding EU copyright rules as this was "the only way to give effect to the rights of authors," one lawmaker said.

Earlier this month, the Artist Rights Alliance launched a petition to end the use of AI that infringes upon or devalues the work of humans. The lobby group of working musicians, performers, and songwriters has gathered signatories from the estates of Frank Sinatra and Bob Marley, multi-platinum singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, rocker Jon Bon Jovi, pop singer Katy Perry, and soul pioneer Stevie Wonder.

A string of legal cases have been launched concerning the consumption and reproduction of copyrighted text by generative AI. Novelists Paul Tremblay, Christopher Golden, Richard Kadrey, and comedian Sarah Silverman accused OpenAI of unlawfully scraping their work last year, while the New York Times is suing Microsoft and OpenAI, claiming the duo infringed on the newspaper's copyright by using its articles without permission.

Last year, Microsoft and Facebook owner Meta – companies both involved with developing GenAI models – ducked questions from UK legislators about their use of copyrighted material.

Earlier, Dan Conway, CEO of the UK's Publishers Association, told the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee that large language models were infringing copyrighted content on an "absolutely massive scale," arguing that the Books3 database – which lists 120,000 pirated book titles – had been ingested by large language models. ®

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