Reed Smith Client Alerts

Earlier this month, the UK government announced that it was walking back its proposed exception to copyright, which would allow artificial intelligence (AI) developers to extract information from lawfully accessed content protected by copyright to train AI systems, without a license. This change of position has been hailed as a victory by the creative sector but signals the beginning of uncertain times for the AI industry in the UK and in the UK’s quest to become the home of AI in Europe.
Conceptual background of Artificial intelligence and deep learning concept, human brain  on technology element

The UK’s AI strategy

The UK published its National AI Strategy in September 2021, based on three key pillars: “(i) investing in the long-term needs of the AI ecosystem; (ii) ensuring AI benefits all sectors and regions; and (iii) governing AI effectively.” Part of this strategy involved launching a consultation on copyright, and specifically the extent to which measures should be implemented to facilitate the use of “copyright protected material in AI development.”

Shortly thereafter, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) launched its AI & Copyright consultation, which included a number of questions focusing on “licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining, which is often significant in AI use and development.” The outcome of the consultation was published by the IPO in June 2022 and made headlines for the strong signal it sent to the AI sector by championing the creation of a copyright exception to permit the extraction of non-protected facts and data from lawfully accessed content protected by copyright, without a license.

But the UK creative sector had other ideas. Publishers, visual artists and the music sector voiced their concerns that they may need to “exit the UK market or apply paywalls where access to content is currently free"1 because the proposed exception would prevent rightsholders from licensing or receiving payment for the use of their data and content. The government was quick to listen and earlier this month, it confirmed that it “will not be proceeding with the proposals.”

No further plan was announced, and no mention was made of exploring alternative options, leaving the UK isolated on the AI geopolitical map and, oddly, with one of the strictest legal frameworks for AI across the globe.

Text and data mining

In the words of the IPO, “text and data mining (TDM) is the use of automated computational techniques to analyse large amounts of information to identify patterns, trends and other useful information. TDM may be used to develop and train AI and has a range of other uses including enabling research. This includes the analysis of medical and scientific data, business intelligence, and data analytics. TDM automates and accelerates what would traditionally be done by eye – reading a document, making notes, and understanding relationships and trends.”

Because TDM usually requires copying of the material to be analyzed, mining content protected by copyright generally requires a license or relies on a copyright exception.