23rd October 2023

Code of practice for AI and Copyright announced

By Matthew Pryke & Katie Pawlyn

Artificial Intelligence (AI) uses machines to simulate human intelligence. Its use is widespread and exponentially growing.

When AI is used to create a piece of work, how is the rightful copyright owner determined? And how are the intellectual property rights of copyright owners upheld?

Following recommendations made by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s former chief scientific advisor, in his Pro-Innovation Regulation of Technologies Review of March 2023, it is accepted there is a need to clarify how AI firms and users may utilise copyright-protected data.

The UK’s current legal framework favours the rights of copyright owners over those of AI systems, but with the government keen to promote AI use in the UK, there is widespread concern in the creative industry that copyright works could be made freely available to AI firms.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright, has announced it is developing a code of practice on AI and Copyright, to find a balance between the conflicting interests of copyright owners and AI firms

Copyright law and AI

Copyright is the legal right of an owner of a creative work. Normally, the copyright owner is also the author of the creative work, however, the same does not apply to AI-generated works. Under current UK law, while AI-generated works can be copyrighted, such works are not deemed to be owned by the AI itself – instead – the works are owned by the person or corporation which ‘controls’ the AI.

AI systems often combine elements from multiple sources in order to create AI-generated works. This is where AI and copyright conflict as AI-generated works can result in the infringement of the intellectual property rights in the works it used.

Government code of practice on copyright and AI

The IPO is working with AI users and copyright holders to produce a new code of practice aimed at balancing the interests of AI users and the rights of copyright holders. The IPO is aiming to:

  • Make licences for data mining more available
  • Help AI firms and users overcome current barriers
  • Protect rights holders
  • Ensure the UK copyright framework promotes and rewards investment in creativity; and
  • Support the UK government’s ambition to become a world leader in research and AI innovation.

The code of practice will set out commitments and expectations in relation to the use of protected material and is envisioned to be entered into voluntarily by AI firms. However, if agreement on its drafting is not reached, the government will consider introducing legislation instead.

Key takeaways

  1. If you are an AI user, beware of potential infringement of third party intellectual property rights.
  2. If you are a copyright owner, consider protecting your works in other ways. For example, it may be possible to register a trade mark or design right to further protect your works.
  3. Keep a close eye on the progression of the code to see how your rights may be affected.

At Hamlins, we advise our clients on the protection of intellectual property rights and AI use. If you would like a conversation about how we can assist you, please get in touch.

Code of practice for AI and Copyright announced

Have a question? Contact Matthew

Have a question? Contact Matthew


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