Apr 4, 2024 2 min read

ICMP launches rights reservations portal setting out the legal and moral obligations of AI companies

A new portal has been launched by the music publishing sector collating ‘rights reservations’ from music publishers which clearly state that those companies’ rights have been reserved from any data and text mining exceptions in copyright law, in particular the exception in European law

ICMP launches rights reservations portal setting out the legal and moral obligations of AI companies

The International Confederation Of Music Publishers has launched a new online portal where music publishers and collecting societies can log their ‘rights reservations’. These are basically statements via which copyright owners formally opt-out of text and data mining exceptions that exist in some copyright systems and which many AI companies rely on when using unlicensed content to train generative AI models. 

The new portal, ICMP Director General John Phelan says, “is a digital resource for music companies worldwide to reaffirm that artificial intelligence must respect real rights. There is no legal, commercial or moral excuse for using the world’s music without respecting copyright. As an industry, we remind AI companies - of all sizes, everywhere - to work with us and do all they must to secure a truly legal, secure and innovative AI marketplace”. 

The music industry is adamant that any AI company using existing recordings or songs to train a model must first get permission from the relevant copyright owners. 

However, many AI companies argue that they do not need permission because AI training is covered by some kind of exception in copyright law. Either a specific exception covering commercial text or data mining - such as in the EU, Singapore or Japan - or the more general concept of ‘fair use’, in the US in particular, but also Israel. 

In the main, the music industry would argue that neither the data mining exceptions nor fair use actually apply in this context, the exact legal arguments depending on which copyright system you’re talking about. However, European law also provides an opt-out - or, technically speaking, a ‘right to reserve’ - which, when employed by a rightsholder, removes any ambiguities over whether or not the data mining exception applies. Because it does not. 

In the words of the 2019 EU Copyright Directive, the European data mining exception “shall apply on condition that the use of works ... has not been expressly reserved by their rightholders in an appropriate manner, such as machine-readable means in the case of content made publicly available online”.

Various rightsholders in the music industry have already reserved their rights in this way, with French collecting society SACEM making a big statement to that effect last year. The new ICMP portal will allow rightsholders to log their rights reservations in one place, making it easier for AI companies to see what rights have been reserved.

A declaration on the portal states the music industry’s core position - that permission must be sought and exceptions generally don’t apply - before adding that, additionally, “all rights in the works” of participating rightsholders “are expressly reserved in relation to relevant text and data mining provisions and copyright exceptions, including but not limited to article four of the 2019 EU Copyright Directive, the United States Code ‘fair use’ exemptions, the 2020 Copyright Act Of Japan, the 2021 Copyright Act of Singapore and the 2007 Copyright Act of Israel”. 

It then says, “There is no legal or moral excuse for the unlicensed access and exploitation of creators’ works for AI training, use or output. Respect for laws and rights will ensure rapid but responsible innovation, continued investment and a sustainable future for AI tech and creative sectors worldwide”. 

All three major music publishers have logged their rights reservations with the portal, as have a bunch of independent publishers including Kobalt, Concord, Peermusic and Reservoir. The portal also makes available a CSV file listing all the participating publishers, to facilitate easy recognition by web crawlers and other automated content recognition technology. 

You can access the portal at www.rightsandai.com.

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