Plans to make the UK a “global AI superpower” by allowing text and data mining “for any purpose” appear to be in jeopardy, as the UK government appears to be retreating from its previous stance.
The announcement comes after months of backlash from the creative industries, who were concerned about the potential effects of the laws on legally protected works.
For those who are unfamiliar, text and data mining is an integral part of virtually any AI application, enabling researchers and developers to make use of diverse datasets in order to train their algorithms. Data is typically controlled by companies or individuals who may not want third parties to have access to their data, making it difficult to obtain access to a substantial volume of data. Either that, or they might only make the information accessible under a commercial licence, making it too pricey to use.
The Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act has included restrictions for text and data mining for quite some time in the United Kingdom, as it has in many other nations (1988). To facilitate the use of third-party data by artificial intelligence researchers for academic rather than commercial objectives, the United Kingdom modified these restrictions in 2014. Despite the new regulations, business firms were still prohibited from using such data; the United Kingdom hoped that lifting this prohibition would promote commercial AI development.
The U.K. Intellectual Property Office (IPO) announced in June that it would extend its existing exception far beyond the research and academic spheres, meaning that there would be no data mining opt-outs for rightsholders. This decision followed a two-month consultation period in 2021 during which the IPO sought input from stakeholders including rightsholders, academics, lawyers, trade organisations, and businesses. Concerns regarding the future of copyrighted works were raised by the music business, publishers, and other sectors of the creative economy in the months that followed.
For this reason, in November, Julia Lopez, an MP and the Minister of State for Media, Data, and Digital Infrastructure, announced that the IPO would be extending its consultation time and that she was “quite certain” that the proposals would not go further. The Communications Committee of the House of Lords issued a warning to the government last month to avoid “undermining the U.K.’s creative industries,” which were estimated to be worth £115 billion ($139 billion) before the outbreak.
The parliamentary discussion held on Wednesday provides the most definitive evidence to far that the United Kingdom will abandon its divisive proposals.
According to George Freeman, minister of state for science, research, and innovation, the initial ideas “were not accurate” because they failed to take into account enough feedback received during the consultation period before to the proposals’ announcement.
When queried about the present situation, one lawmaker heard Freeman say, “we will not be ahead with the plans,” while he emphasised that the matter must still go via legal channels. In particular, Freeman criticised his predecessors for approving the ideas and blamed the current political “turmoil” in the United Kingdom as a contributing factor.
In a statement, Freeman stated, “I do not believe I could be clearer that the two Ministers concerned [Lopez and Freeman] concur that the ideas made, authorised, and publicised did not meet with the desired support.” However, I should emphasise that they were released long after I had left the government, and during a time of great upheaval. A takeaway from this is that it’s best to avoid passing laws during times of political upheaval.
If what Freeman and Lopez have said recently can be taken at face value, this means that the U.K. Government will convene all relevant internal and external stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework that safeguards the creative industries while also bolstering the U.K.’s efforts to become a “AI superpower.”
For the government, “AI is coming at us as a revolutionary technology at a rate that we have not had to deal with before,” Freeman said. Established industries, emerging industries, and artists working in all areas of the creative industries face significant and intriguing problems as a result of the rapid development, maturation, and reinvention of technology.
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