Home » Urgent Action Needed to Stop AI Developers From ‘Destroying’ Artists’ Careers, Says U.K. Parliament Committee

Urgent Action Needed to Stop AI Developers From ‘Destroying’ Artists’ Careers, Says U.K. Parliament Committee

A U.K. parliamentary committee is calling on the British government to introduce tough new laws that would make it illegal for artificial intelligence (AI) developers to use copyright-protected music for training purposes without consent – and protect creators and artists from the unauthorized use of their voice and image in AI-generated works.

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Music published Wednesday (May 1) says that regulating artificial intelligence would help ensure creators and consumers in the United Kingdom, the world’s third-biggest music market, are protected from the “threats” AI poses to the music business, while still harvesting its benefits.

A key priority for the British government should be the creation of a comprehensive “pro-creative industries” AI bill that will require tech companies to clearly label all AI-generated content and keep an auditable record of all music used in the input process, says the cross-party group of more than 100 elected members of Parliament (MPs) and Peers.

The parliamentary group also calls on policymakers to establish a specific personality right to protect creators and artists from AL-generated deepfakes, misappropriation and false endorsement.

Under current law, the United Kingdom stands apart as one of the few jurisdictions that lacks explicit protection for individuals’ likeness, voice and image with the closest equivalent being a legal concept known as “passing off,” which protects a persons’ image or name from unauthorized commercial use, says Sophie Goossens, partner at global law firm Reed Smith.

“The absence of such protection has been starkly highlighted by advancements in AI deepfakes technology,” Goossens tells Billboard. “Consequently, it’s no surprise that the creative industry is now pushing for the establishment of this new right.”

Other recommendations in the report, entitled “Artificial Intelligence and the Music Industry – Master or Servant?,” include ensuring that AI developers and tech companies trading in the U.K. comply with the country’s existing copyright laws and obtain a license from rights holders before using any copyright-protected material, regardless of where the developer is based.

Additionally, the British government should take a lead role in the creation of an international taskforce on AI, ensuring best practice is shared across borders, says the report. It follows a parliamentary inquiry, launched in January, looking into the impact of AI on the music business, which has seen stakeholders from across the music, tech and legal industries present evidence. 

The parliamentary group’s recommendations come almost two years after U.K. government body The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) was heavily criticized by the music industry for proposing a new text and data mining (TDM) exception that would have allowed AI developers to freely use copyright-protected works for commercial purposes (albeit with certain restrictions).

Those proposals were quietly shelved by the government the following year but progress on any form of U.K. legislation governing the use of AI has been slow and remains at the consultation stage.

In contrast, the 27-member block European Union, which the United Kingdom officially left in 2020, passed its world-first Artificial Intelligence Act earlier this year. It requires tech companies and AI developers operating in Europe to provide detailed summaries of any copyrighted works, including music, that they have used to train their systems, as well as clear labelling of AI-generated works.

Other major music markets, including the United States, Japan and China are advancing their own attempts to regulate the nascent technology.  

“The U.K. 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,” said APPG on Music chair Kevin Brennan in a statement.

Brennan said the government needs to “confront the danger that unfettered developments in AI could pose to the U.K.’s musicians and music businesses” and ensure that “AI serves as a catalyst” for progress in the industry rather than “a destroyer of creators’ livelihoods.”

Rachel Lyske, CEO of AI-composer tool DAACI, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said the government “must and can give” the U.K. music industry the backing it needs to deliver a fair AI system “that protects human artistry and acknowledges every part of the value chain.”

Included in the APPG report are the findings from a poll of more than 2,000 people around the topic of AI, conducted on behalf of umbrella trade body UK Music. It found that four out of five people (83%) believe AI-generated works must be clearly labelled as such – and that more than three quarters (77%) of respondents agree that AI-generated music that fails to acknowledge the original creator amounts to theft. 

Responding to the report’s findings, the U.K. Musicians’ Union (MU) thanked the parliamentary group for looking into the impact of AI on the music business but said its recommendations to government ministers don’t go far enough to protect performers.

The MU said it was “vital” that any future licensing scheme governing the use of copyright-protected works to train AI systems requires the “clear, explicit consent” of individual creators, as opposed to just the label or publisher rights holders.

The performer trade group also wants to see musicians receive a higher level of protection around personality rights, including a performer’s playing, compositional or lyrical style, in any future legislation.

“While assistive AI is already being adopted by creators, we urgently need legislation to deal with the implications of generative AI,” said MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl in a statement.

“Once again, we are up against big tech and lobbying groups with much larger resources than our own. However, we know many decision-makers are listening and keen to help,” said Pohl.

She said the MU would continue to engage with the government on the issue of AI and music streaming to “ensure our members get a fair deal and aren’t repeatedly taken advantage of by rights owners or users of their works.”