ALCS urges Government to better protect authors’ rights with AI regulation

The Government has published its response to the consultation ‘A Pro-Innovation Approach to AI Regulation’.

The response to the consultation, which ALCS provided evidence to, was published yesterday by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

While there are some positives to take from the response, in that the Government includes transparency as a key area of work in its approach and is looking to further engage with stakeholders, this does not sufficiently address creators’ legitimate concerns around the ongoing use of their copyright protected content to develop and train AI systems. It remains to be seen how the Government engages with stakeholders, including the extent to which it will properly engage with authors.

Without autonomy and control over the use of their content, transparency alone will not protect authors’ rights. Given that the recent Lords report on Large Language Models  appropriately recommended the Government “support copyright”, stating that “the point of copyright is to reward creators for their efforts, prevent others from using works without permission, and incentivise innovation”, it is disappointing that the Government approach is not yet taking the importance of properly protecting authors, their rights and autonomy over their work into account.

The response states that the UK intends to be a global leader in AI regulation. However, the most recent text of the European Unions’ AI Act goes further and demonstrates that respect for copyright and related rights, and an emphasis on the importance of authorisation from rightsholders, can be achieved in addition to merely regulating for greater transparency. Many authors’ works have already been used without consent, control or compensation by technology companies in the development of AI systems, without which they would not have a product to commercialise.

ALCS Chief Executive Barbara Hayes said: “Authors need to be sure that their works will be protected in the Government’s approach to the development of AI. Transparency is important and it is good to see this acknowledged, but ultimately it is authors’ work, and it is first and foremost their right to control how it is used.

ALCS stands for the principle of fair payment for use, and that creators should be offered a choice in terms of what happens to their works. While others have acknowledged the importance of this, we want to see the Government engage directly with creators’ organisations and consider this when addressing their next steps”.

You can learn more about our campaign work around AI and authors here.