Proposed changes to copyright law open doors for AI data mining

Update to copyright law will mean researchers who already have access to data will not require extra permission from copyright owner to run data mining algorithms, removing barriers to artificial intelligence research and development

The government plans to amend copyright laws following a consultation on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for technical innovation and creative works.

As it advances and evolves, AI may very well develop technical innovation and creative works entirely without human supervision. The government wants to ensure that intellectual property (IP) laws are appropriate to secure the human benefits of this innovation.

In response to the government’s call for views on AI and IP, questions were raised about the balance in the copyright system between the protection of human works and AI works. Some of those who contributed views felt that copyright might present barriers in the development of AI itself. Using works subject to copyright when training AI and in innovation and research is one example of this. For patents, issues were identified that may act as a barrier to innovation as the use of AI systems increases.

Following on from the consultation, the government plans to make changes to copyright rules.

“AI has the potential to completely transform how we live, from improving our healthcare to helping tackle climate change, and drive significant economic growth across the country,” said Chris Philp, minister for tech and the digital economy.

“The UK is at the forefront of research and innovation when it comes to AI, and these updates to copyright law will ensure we remain a science and tech superpower, enabling our world-class researchers and AI developers to unleash AI’s full potential and create new benefits,” he added.

The proposed changes to UK copyright law would mean anyone who has lawful access to material protected by copyright will be able to carry out data mining without further permission from the copyright owner. Such data mining could improve the accuracy of the data models used in machine learning.

“The UK is a global research powerhouse and researchers are ready to take advantage of powerful new AI and text and data mining techniques,” said David Prosser, executive director at Research Libraries UK. “The proposed changes to copyright announced today will allow us to harness the potential of new, innovative computational tools, and significantly advance UK research and innovation.”

The government said rights holders would still be able to control and charge for access to their works and control their wider use, with the only change being that they would no longer be able to charge extra specifically for the ability to mine them.

“The AI Council’s AI roadmap recommended that the government should consider how to redefine intellectual property to incentivise investment and attract world-class talent to develop leading AI products and services here in the UK,” said Wendy Hall, acting AI Council chair.

“The proposed changes to copyright law announced today will enable the UK’s IP framework to remain relevant, adaptable and keep pace in a changing world,” she added. “Most importantly, it will encourage UK industries to invest strategically in AI research, development and innovation, with the aim of becoming globally competitive.”

Read more about AI regulations

  • UK government urged to work with industry on a flexible regulatory framework to ensure the explainability, reliability and robustness of artificial intelligence.
  • EU proposal aims to encourage the development of ethical artificial intelligence systems that do not infringe the human rights of EU citizens.

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