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Government Scraps Plans for Voluntary AI Code of Conduct, Stirring Concerns in Creative and Tech Sectors

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The recent decision by the UK government to abandon plans for a voluntary code of conduct for artificial intelligence (AI) has been criticised by lawyers, arguing that such a code was destined to fail from the start.

The initiative, spearheaded by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) aimed at laying down rules for the training of AI models using copyrighted material, hit a roadblock as industry stakeholders failed to reach a consensus.

Andana Streng, managing associate at Addleshaw Goddard’s intellectual property team, expressed skepticism about the feasibility of expecting AI companies to devise a voluntary code of practice. Streng highlighted the significant financial investments and human oversight required to ensure transparency in sourcing training data and generating AI outputs, which could strain the viability of smaller firms.

Paul Joseph, an IP partner at Linklaters, echoed concerns about the ambiguous goals of the proposed code, emphasizing the necessity of clarifying its intended outcomes for both creative and tech stakeholders.

Aaron Cole, senior associate at Ashurst’s IP team, emphasized the complexity of developing an AI code of conduct, stressing the delicate balance needed to uphold existing rights for creative industries while fostering innovation.

The failure to establish a code of conduct has raised concerns among content creators and rights holders, who fear that tech companies are profiting from their work without proper compensation. Instances of copyright infringement lawsuits in the US, such as the case involving OpenAI and Microsoft, serve as a warning of potential legal challenges.

In response to these developments, the Lords Communications and Digital Committee recommended government support for copyright holders, a sentiment echoed by Owen Meredith of the News Media Association, who urged legislative action to safeguard copyright law.

Despite the setback, the government reaffirmed its commitment to fostering innovation in both AI and creative industries. A forthcoming white paper detailing further plans for AI regulation is expected to address these concerns and outline a balanced approach to support the thriving AI and creative sectors in the UK.

As the government navigates the intricacies of AI regulation, stakeholders across industries await further clarity on the future of copyright law and the role of AI in driving innovation and economic growth.

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