AI developers must not violate copyright law or use works without permission

  • 02 Feb 2024

NUJ welcomes House of Lords report urging action to ensure the protection of rightsholders.

The NUJ submitted a response to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s call for evidence last year, raising concerns about the risks posed by large language models (LLMs) to journalism through their unlawful scraping of copyright journalistic content.

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has recognised that whilst LLMs may be of value to society, they should not violate copyright law or its underpinning principles. The committee said “We do not believe it is fair for tech firms to use rightsholder data for commercial purposes without permission or compensation, and to gain vast financial rewards in the process.”

It has urged government to publish its view on whether copyright law provides sufficient protections to rightsholders, and to consider options for legislation should major uncertainty arise.

“The application of the law to LLM processes is complex, but the principles remain clear. The point of copyright is to reward creators for their efforts, prevent others from using works without permission, and incentivise innovation. The current legal framework is failing to ensure these outcomes occur and the Government has a duty to act. It cannot sit on its hands for the next decade until sufficient case law has emerged.”

A working group convened by the Intellectual Property Office has not yet published its voluntary code for AI and copyright, originally expected in 2023. The Lords committee has called on government to avoid delays past spring this year, setting out options including on legislative changes if necessary. The NUJ stressed in its submission that developers must be required to adhere to regulatory frameworks with sanctions in place where breaches occur. The union also called for new, accessible routes to redress to ensure journalists are fairly compensated.

The NUJ welcomes the committee’s recommendation on training data aligned with our calls for improved transparency. The report states that the Intellectual Property Office “should include a mechanism for rightsholders to check training data. This would provide assurance about the level of compliance with copyright law.”

Access the committee’s report.

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