UK Parliamentary report on Gen AI urges copyright compliance and licensing
February 4, 2024
On 2 February, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee released its report on large language models and generative AI.
The Executive Summary says:
We have even deeper concerns about the Government’s commitment to fair play around copyright. Some tech firms are using copyrighted material without permission, reaping vast financial rewards. The legalities of this are complex but the principles remain clear. The point of copyright is to reward creators for their efforts, prevent others from using works without permission, and incentivise innovation. The current legal framework is failing to ensure these outcomes occur and the Government has a duty to act. It cannot sit on its hands for the next decade and hope the courts will provide an answer.
It goes on to say: ‘There is a short window to steer the UK towards a positive outcome’. Its 10 recommendations include:
- Support copyright: The Government should prioritise fairness and responsible innovation. It must resolve disputes definitively (including through updated legislation if needed); empower rightsholders to check if their data has been used without permission; and invest in large, high-quality training datasets to encourage tech firms to use licenced material.
In the Copyright chapter, the Committee made the following comments and recommendations.
On copyright compliance by AI developers:
245. LLMs may offer immense value to society. But that does not warrant the violation of copyright law or its underpinning principles. We do not believe it is fair for tech firms to use rightsholder data for commercial purposes without permission or compensation, and to gain vast financial rewards in the process. There is compelling evidence that the UK benefits economically, politically and societally from upholding a globally respected copyright regime.
246. The application of the law to LLM processes is complex, but the principles remain clear. The point of copyright is to reward creators for their efforts, prevent others from using works without permission, and incentivise innovation. The current legal framework is failing to ensure these outcomes occur and the Government has a duty to act. It cannot sit on its hands for the next decade until sufficient case law has emerged.
247. In response to this report the Government should publish its view on whether copyright law provides sufficient protections to rightsholders, given recent advances in LLMs. If this identifies major uncertainty the Government should set out options for updating legislation to ensure copyright principles remain future proof and technologically neutral.
On the Government’s code on copyright and AI (here) being managed by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO):
249. The voluntary IPO-led process is welcome and valuable. But debate cannot continue indefinitely. If the process remains unresolved by Spring 2024 the Government must set out options and prepare to resolve the dispute definitively, including legislative changes if necessary.
252. The IPO code must ensure creators are fully empowered to exercise their rights, whether on an opt-in or opt-out basis. Developers should make it clear whether their web crawlers are being used to acquire data for generative AI training or for other purposes. This would help rightsholders make informed decisions, and reduce risks of large firms exploiting adjacent market dominance.
256. The Government should encourage good practice by working with licensing agencies and data repository owners to create expanded, high quality data sources at the scales needed for LLM training. The Government should also use its procurement market to encourage good practice.
259. The IPO code should include a mechanism for rightsholders to check training data. This would provide assurance about the level of compliance with copyright law.
This report follows a report from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee entitled ‘Connected tech: AI and creative technology’, to which the Government responded in January: see here.