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British media and creative industries quizzed over AI risks to copyright

The British media and creative industries are being sounded out by the government over growing concerns that products generated by artificial intelligence are infringing their copyright.

Officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have written to executives seeking to “build our understanding of the concerns and interests in recent developments in artificial intelligence”.

The letter, seen by the Financial Times, acknowledged that the use of AI “has been a subject of significant debate across creative sectors and of significant concern for many”.

Executives at media groups have complained that tech firms have been using their news stories and features to train chatbots without a licensing deal in place.

Others in the music, book publishing and broadcasting sectors have similar misgivings about the exploitation of their original works — for example, the creation of “deep fake” AI-generated productions using an artist’s voice or style to produce new work.

There are some early discussions under way between tech and media companies over licensing AI-generated products based on copyrighted material. Last week, the FT reported Google and Universal Music were in talks over a licensing partnership to cover AI-generated deep-fake-style songs based on an artist’s voice.

News organisations have also expressed concern about the use of AI to create fake news. Rachel Corp, chief executive of TV news group ITN, wrote to ministers in June calling on them to help maintain standards and protect the integrity of election reporting.

The letter from DCMS addressed a wide range of issues, including how companies could monetise and control their content when it was used as an input to AI. It sought suggestions on establishing a “robust means of preventing/tackling copyright infringing outputs from those AI models”.

Executives were also asked whether they thought deep fakes posed a threat to their organisation or sector while the letter acknowledged there were opportunities and advantages of using AI given that media groups were already testing out the technology to write basic stories.

The letter said the department was “working to ensure that the concerns of creative sectors are being considered in the broader policymaking debate”. The government is already planning to publish an AI regulation white paper.

“We are not seeking to duplicate that work, and are separately engaged with relevant teams on both,” the department wrote. “Instead, we want to ensure that we have as comprehensive a picture as possible of the risks and opportunities that AI presents specifically to [the media and creative] sectors.”

Executives are concerned that the threat posed to media companies and creative industries could take a back seat given the government’s desire to establish the country as a global centre for AI development.

The UK will host the world’s first global summit on the regulation of artificial intelligence in November.

The government said in a statement: “AI creates opportunities to maximise the potential of our creative industries and media sector, but we know it also presents risks. We want to take a balanced approach that helps secure the UK’s position as a world leader in AI, while protecting our thriving creative sectors.”


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