Cross-Party MPs Support Against Copyright Exception Leads To Key Ministerial Announcement

Commons debate paves the way for Government rethink on "incorrect" proposals to grant text and data mining exemption for Artificial Intelligence.

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01.02.2023: Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney held a House of Commons debate on the risk to the creative industries of granting a text and data mining exception for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The debate led to Intellectual Property Minister George Freeman confirming  “these proposals were not correct” and that a deeper consultation will take place.

The move was welcomed by UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin who said: “The whole music industry has been united in its opposition to these proposals, which would have paved the way for music laundering and opened up our brilliant creators and rights holders to gross exploitation.” You can read his full comments here.

In June 2022 the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) proposed the introduction of a new copyright exception, which would allow the mining of text and data for any purpose, including copying music without permission, and without the option for writers and artists to opt out.

The proposal triggered fierce opposition right across the UK music sector and the wider cultural industries. The Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday  gave MPs from all political party’s the chance to express their concerns around the proposal. 

Opening the debate, Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney described AI as “transformative in nature” but suggested it could present significant risks for the creative sector if well-thought out and well-considered government policies were not in place to support it.

She shared findings from a survey she conducted of more than 200 creative workers to understand the impact that artificial intelligence has on their work. Many were concerned about how AI could change the way they work or their employability prospects. She urged the Minister to scrap the current plans.

A number of cross-party MPs offered follow-up interventions. The former Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, Conservative MP Damian Collins, described it as a “big mistake, at this point, to completely cut out the creatives and see their data and text content exploited by somebody else”.

DUP MP Jim Shannon offered a Northern Irish perspective and reflected on the impact of lockdown on the creative industries, whilst Labour MP John Spellar highlighted the music ecosystem and how strong copyright legislation is good for the economic and social value of music, plus the country as a whole. SNP MP John Nicolson even used ChatGPT to create an AI-generated response to the debate.

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Chi Onwurah MP emphasised a key point: AI can support the creative industries and offers huge potential for the sector “but our creative industries and the AI sector do not need to be in conflict with each another”, as creators need the ability to enforce their rights over their work. She asked the Minister what assessment had been made of the impact of the proposals and whether the IPO made an estimate of how much the proposed exception will contribute to the economy.

Responding to these concerns, intellectual property Minister George Freeman said he and the DCMS Minister Julia Lopez felt that the “proposals were not correct” and that they would not be proceeding with these plans.

He stated that he will begin deeper consultation with the Intellectual Property APPG, experts in both Houses, and the creative industries. He also said that he was aware a balance needed to be struck in the future, adding: “AI is coming at us as a transformational technology at a pace that in Government we haven’t had to deal with before.” 

Welcoming the news, Sarah Olney, closed the debate by sharing she was “delighted” to hear that the Minister has reconsidered the current proposals. She described the debate on cutting-edge technology in the ancient surroundings of Westminster Hall as “a reflection of why our creative sector is such a stronghold of the British economy”.

UK Music would like to thank Sarah Olney MP for facilitating and leading the debate and ministers George Freeman and Julia Lopez for considering our concerns. We would also thank  the MPs who contributed: Damian Collins, Jim Shannon, John Spellar, John Nicholson and Chi Onwurah – and those MPs who have worked closely with UK Music and the music industry to contest these proposals including Kevin Brennan, John Whittingdale, Damian Green and Lucy Powell.

You can see the full debate here. (Scroll in to 17.00)

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