May 1, 2024 3 min read

MPs call on UK government to create “a pro-creative industries AI bill”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group On Music has published a report on music and AI making a number of recommendations to government. That includes a “a pro-creative industries AI bill” the clarifies the copyright obligations of AI companies and introduces a new personality right for artists

MPs call on UK government to create “a pro-creative industries AI bill”

A cross-party group of MPs has called on the UK government to create “a pro-creative industries AI bill”, setting out the copyright and transparency obligations of AI companies, and introducing “a specific personality right to protect creators and artists from misappropriation and false endorsement”. 

The call comes in a new report on music and AI published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Music, which is chaired by Kevin Brennan MP. Launching the report, he says, “The UK must grasp the transformative potential of AI in shaping the future of music if it is to retain its role as a powerhouse in exporting music and nurturing world-class talent. We must also confront the danger that unfettered developments in AI could pose to the UK’s musicians and music businesses”. 

Lawmakers ignore the necessity to introduce new policies around AI and music “at our peril”, he adds. “Our central insight must always be that AI can be a great servant but would be a terrible master. By leveraging the collective strength of policymakers, industry leaders and innovators we can ensure that AI serves as a catalyst for creativity, and progress in the music ecosystem, rather than an inhibitor of growth and a destroyer of creators’ livelihoods”. 

The new report, titled ‘AI And The Music Industry – Master Or Servant’, includes the results of a survey commissioned by cross-sector lobbying group UK Music, which insists that music consumers agree with the music industry when it comes to the responsibilities of companies developing generative AI models. 

Of the 2000+ people surveyed, 80% agreed that “the law should stop an artist’s music being used to train an AI application without their knowledge or permission”. Even more people - 83% - believe that an artist's “creative personality” should be “protected in law against being copied using AI”. And the same number want AI-generated music to be clearly labelled as such. 

The music industry is adamant that current copyright law obliges AI companies to get permission from copyright owners before making use of existing music when training an AI model. However, not all AI companies agree, reckoning that AI training is covered by copyright exceptions in at least some countries. That would mean they could use existing music to train AI models without getting permission from or paying any money to the relevant copyright owners. 

In their report, MPs say that the government should remove any loopholes, stressing that AI companies must secure “express permission before using copyrighted material”. And, not only that, but complying with UK copyright law should be “a condition of market access”, meaning any AI model being used in the UK would have to be trained subject to UK law, even if it was actually trained in a country where a copyright exception might apply. 

The report also talks about publicity and personality rights, which are increasingly seen as being vital for artists seeking to protect their voice and likeness. The UK, unlike the US and most of Europe, doesn't currently provide a personality right. “The government should introduce a specific personality right to protect creators and artists from misappropriation and false endorsement”, the report states. “Such a right should protect their voice, image, name, and likeness”.

The recommendations in the report - which also call for AI companies to be transparent about training data and to clearly label AI-generated works - pretty much line up with demands already made by the music industry, including UK Music, which helped produce the document. 

Last year the government convened a working group involving representatives of both the creative industries and the tech sector with the somewhat ambitious aim of agreeing a voluntary code of practice on the copyright obligations of AI companies. That process failed and we now await more detail on what the government's next steps will be. Needless to say, AI companies are lobbying as hard as the copyright owners in seeking a legal framework that suits their agenda. 

UK Music Interim CEO Tom Kiehl says, “We welcome this report, which sets out clear recommendations for government on how to stop music fans being ripped off and how to protect music creators from the theft of their work. The threat to the music industry from generative AI is now very real and the government must move to legislate to support our world-leading music industry”. 

Within the music industry, there is more or less consensus regarding the obligations of AI companies, though organisations representing artists and songwriters also believe that record labels and music publishers that own or control music copyrights should have similar obligations to music creators. Which is to say, labels and publishers should be getting artist and songwriter consent before licensing their catalogues to AI companies. 

The Council Of Music Makers, which unites the UK Music member organisations that represent artists, musicians, songwriters, studio producers and their managers, stressed this again in its response to the new report. 

“We are grateful to the APPG for this report, which provides a helpful framework for government”, it wrote. “AI offers opportunities for the music industry, but only if music-makers’ rights are protected. The government should ensure that both tech companies and rights-holders get consent from music-makers before using their work in AI and then fairly compensate them”.

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