UK Music Chief Outlines Threat To Music Of Text And Data Mining To Musicians

15.12.2022: UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin wrote a piece for the Musicians' Union magazine, The Musician on proposed change to UK copyright legislation could that have a serious impact on UK Music creators and businesses' rights and royalties. 

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15.12.2022: UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin wrote a piece for the Musicians’ Union magazine, The Musician on proposed change to UK copyright legislation could that have a serious impact on UK Music creators and businesses’ rights and royalties. 

The piece appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of The Musician magazine, and is reproduced below with the permission of the Musicians’ Union.

The rapid advances in the ways we use artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the way we live our lives. However, the astonishing pace of change has left little time for policymakers, business leaders and others to fully assess the potential risks, and balance these against the benefits of AI.

I welcome many of the developments that AI has brought, particularly in areas such as public health. Yet, potential changes are afoot that could have a devastating impact on creators in the music industry and threaten their livelihoods.

Data Mining
This summer, the Government laid out a plan for a new copyright exception that would allow text and data mining for any purpose, including commercial use. In a nutshell, text and data mining – or TDM – is the process of using a computer to automatically extract patterns and trends from different sources, including music. During this process innumerable copies are being made.

The process sees an AI fed copies of existing music, which it then analyses to identify musical patterns before going on to generate supposedly ‘new’ music from the original works. At present, AI firms cannot plunder artists’ back catalogues to create new works that they can then monetise, because they would be in breach of long-standing and vitally important rules on copyright. If they want to use a piece of music, they have to seek permission from the rightsholder.

These safeguards ensure the musical creations and the income streams of the UK’s legions of fantastic creators get the important protections they need and deserve.

Alarmingly, under the proposed changes suggested by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), a key part of those invaluable protections could be swept away. The IPO has put forward proposals that would allow AI text and data mining for any purpose – with no possibility for rightsholders to opt out of these proposed changes.

A blanket exception would pave the way for AI companies to make huge profits by effectively laundering music they do not own, have not sought permission to use, and certainly have not paid for.

Under this change, the creators of the original music would not see a penny, or decide what happens to their creation. Not only is this morally wrong, it could have a catastrophic impact on creators’ incomes and would be a body blow to a community that is the lifeblood of the world-leading UK music industry.

Stolen Creations
Some creators may welcome an approach from an AI firm and be happy to license their work – but they have to be given the choice and not just see their work taken without their consent or any reward.

The success of the UK music industry is based on the talent and creativity of UK music makers and the expertise and business skills of the UK music industry. A major part of this success is based on the UK’s solid copyright, licensing and enforcement framework. This provides a means for creators to monetise their work, creates incentives for investment in talent and offers people the chance to enjoy a fantastic and diverse range of UK music.

The removal of copyright protections would see the Government handing access to the back catalogues of UK musicians worth billions of pounds to AI companies without any compensation.

The exception would mark a huge transfer of value from Abbey Road to Silicon Valley and impact creative rights worth billions of pounds. The damage to the competitiveness of our world-leading creative industries and the impact on our exports would be huge.

You might think that the IPO has researched this area extensively and would be in a position to demonstrate what benefits this seismic change would bring. However, this is not the case. The IPO has conducted no impact assessment for its proposals or provided any evidence of its perceived value.

Irreparable Harm
The IPO has wrongly claimed that its proposed exception is in line with international best practice. But that is simply not the case. Barely any other countries have gone down this route, and the few that have made sure
to build in safeguards – like Germany, which has included an opt-out mechanism to ensure rightsholders retain control.

It’s deeply frustrating that at the same time as ministers laud the UK as a global creative superpower, the Government is pursuing a policy that would cause irreparable harm to our sector. The fact that the negative impact has not even been acknowledged by the IPO, while the supposed positive benefits are yet
to be quantified, makes the situation even more maddening.

The few supporters of such a wide exception to copyright have made it clear that they do not want to pay for the work of our creators. No surprise there. The planned change has sent shockwaves through the music industry, but it has united us to demand that the Government and the IPO drop this plan.

The UK creative sector, and in particular the UK music industry, has been innovating for decades. We are already part of the technological revolution.

We have no intention of standing in the way of positive changes and will continue to embrace
technological developments. However, this proposed exception is a regressive step that, far from advancing our sector, will dramatically set back the UK music industry.

Work Together
After an extremely difficult couple of years, the music industry is desperately trying to
bounce back from Covid-19. We are starting to see the green shoots of a recovery, but the difficulties around touring the EU, soaring costs and the impact of the cost of living crisis on sales means the road ahead is still rocky.

So it is vital that we avoid inflicting this needless act of self-harm on the UK music industry and do all we can safeguard our brilliant creators and their work. UK Music is leading the charge against these destructive proposals, and we need all the help we can get. So I urge every MU member to support our campaign and make sure your voice is heard by writing to your local MP about this. Together, we can convince Government to think again and abandon this disastrous course of action, which could fatally undermine the foundations that have made the UK music industry so successful for so long.

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