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Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Rights

Volume 727: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2023

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the potential impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property rights for creative workers.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I am delighted to have secured a debate on such an important and dynamic topic.

The rapid rise of artificial intelligence seemingly knows no bounds. Each week, a new AI tool is launched that drives further change across business, science, the arts and everyday life. When I applied for the debate, no one had heard of ChatGPT, but now it is writing speeches for the Chancellor. AI can undoubtedly bring significant advancements across a variety of fields, from aiding medical diagnoses to predicting environmental disasters. AI is transformative. It goes further and faster than humanly possible. Quite rightly, it has been identified as one of the UK’s key growth industries, and it is vital that Government policy supports digital innovation to position the UK as a world leader in this field.

But just as AI brings many benefits, it also carries significant risk. AI is rapidly permeating the creative sector, creating visual art, prose, music and film at a pace and cost that humans are unable to match. For creatives, the risk of AI-generated material flooding the market gives rise to significant regulatory and ethical challenges, but these can be overcome, or at least mitigated, with well thought out and considered policy that balances the legitimate concerns of creatives with the need to foster digital innovation. I am therefore pleased to bring this debate to Parliament to discuss those challenges on the record and to give a voice to the millions of creative workers across the UK whose careers will be impacted by AI.

We have all seen how quickly AI can redefine industry norms. We must start exploring how we balance our digital and creative future. What is the outlook for our musicians, journalists, visual artists, publishers and performers in an increasingly computer-powered world? With the help of the Chamber Engagement Team, I conducted a survey of over 200 creative workers to hear how AI was impacting their work. Many said that their work, which they own the copyright for, had been used without their consent by AI companies. One respondent, Richard, noted that, in recent weeks, almost 600 of his copyrighted images had been scraped off the internet to train AI platforms, for which he has not received a single penny. Another survey respondent, Henry, said:

“Why should an AI company be able to blatantly copy and capture the ‘essence’ of how I compose music and monetise it, for free?”

This bypassing of copyright has resulted in creatives feeling that AI is undermining their skills and devaluing the creative process, as well as having a detrimental impact on their income.

The respondents to my survey are not alone. A significant volume of active legal battles regarding AI and intellectual property is currently going through the courts. Intellectual property rights and copyright laws are fundamental to the success of the UK’s world-leading creative industries. They not only protect the integrity of original work, but provide a revenue stream to ensure that creatives can make a living from their work. Copyright therefore has both an economic and a moral importance for creatives. But rather than looking to ensure current protections are upheld and enforced, last June, the Intellectual Property Office published proposals for an all-out exception to copyright for text and data mining in order to promote AI, with no opt-out for rights holders.

Under these proposals, companies across the world would be able to use UK creatives’ material to produce clean, new material that they could sell and even obtain copyright for without having to gain permission from the creator or pay for a licence. This would see a huge transfer of value from individual creatives to tech companies and strip creatives of the opportunity to refuse or grant permission for the use of their work by AI companies, placing thousands of jobs within the creative sector under threat.

These proposals to dramatically widen the text and data mining exception have been met with staunch resistance from the creative community, which has emphasised not only their economic harm but the damage that the erosion of intellectual property rights will do to industry as a whole by stunting future creativity. UK Music has referred to the text and data mining exception as “music laundering”. Equity, the trade union, has said that the proposal

“could be a huge assault on the property rights of performers.”

The Publishers Content Forum has said that the proposals would disincentivise further investment in high quality data. The Design and Artists Copyright Society, which represents visual artists, has warned that

“this change will have far-reaching detrimental consequences”.

It has urged the Government to

“look again at how the policy objectives”

of supporting AI-driven technologies

“can be better met without undermining creators’ rights.”

After hearing evidence from some of those groups and many others, the Lords Communications and Digital Committee found that the IPO’s text and data mining proposals were “misguided” and advised that they be dropped “immediately”. I was therefore encouraged yesterday to hear the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez), tell the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that she was “pretty confident” that the text and data mining exception would not be going ahead as proposed last summer.

As the Intellectual Property Office falls within the remit of the Minister responding to the debate, I am hopeful that he will confirm that the Government will not proceed with the all-out exception to copyright. That news would be welcomed across the creative sector, but a number of questions remain to be answered. Why were the proposals ever signed off? Who asked for them? What issue were they trying to solve? On what basis was it deemed necessary to adopt such a broadbrush approach? What evidence is there that the copyright exception will benefit the UK economy in general and the promotion of AI specifically?

If the proposals are indeed not proceeding as originally intended, how will the Government ensure that stakeholders are thoroughly consulted on alternative proposals to avoid a repeat of last summer? How will Parliament be consulted to ensure that the correct balance between promoting our creative sector and developing AI can be achieved? Both sectors are strategically important to the UK.

Many of the creative workers who responded to my survey expressed a clear desire for robust enforcement of current copyright protections, with any form of open access text and data mining arrangement offered on an opt-in basis for creatives. One respondent, Ian, said:

“If musicians and composers wish to sell their rights to software companies to train their systems then that is their right, but the default should be that it is illegal to use any music without permission, and it must be enforced robustly.”

There does not seem to be a shortage of free data online. Google has this week revealed a new AI tool that is able to generate music from a short textual description using only work that is not protected by copyright. Other survey respondents advocated stricter rules relating to copyright infringement and tougher legislation to improve copyright protection of individuals and companies.

What is the solution? How do we balance the legitimate concerns of rights holders with the need to foster an environment that stimulates innovation in AI? The answer cannot simply be plucked out of thin air. It needs to be worked out in detail after careful discussion between Government, officials and stakeholders from across the full breadth of the creative sector.

The creative industry, like all sectors, will have to adapt to accommodate AI, but the industry is capable of and already making progress with that. Creatives have largely accepted that AI-generated content will have its place in the market, and they are already using AI to enhance their work by driving efficiencies and extending their reach to new markets. It also gives rise to a number of new licensing opportunities to generate value for creatives. However, a solid regulatory framework is essential to protect their rights and ensure that they can take part in value creation and retain control over their work.

My team and I have spoken to a number of bodies across the creative sector, whom I thank for sharing their insights. It is clear that the passion that drives our creative industries is still well and truly alive. That is not to say that the creative industries will not face challenges from technological advancements. AI can operate faster and more efficiently than humans, but it will never be able to draw on the lived experience of humans.

The arts bind us together as a society. They create a collective identity and a shared cultural experience. The connection drawn between reader and author, listener and songwriter, and artist and viewer cannot be replaced by a robot. The value, beauty and joy of the arts is that they reflect the human experience. How sterile and lonely our lives would be if human life were only to be captured on servers and in pixels. How deprived we would be if algorithms served us up only what they thought we wanted to hear and see and we no longer had the opportunity to encounter something completely different.

We must also remember that creators are individuals who often dedicate their lives to their craft. History teaches us that as manual workers are replaced by machines, skills atrophy as demand for them falls. People work hard to develop a skill because they hope to earn a living from it. If the economy no longer demands skills in the creative sector, they will start to decline.

Amy, a composer who responded to my survey, said:

“We train for many years, often at our own expense, to develop and hone our skills in order to share our music. Yet with every week that goes by, we see our music being devalued at every turn. We should be embracing musicians, composers and artists, not trampling over them with the click of a button.”

If creative industries no longer present a viable career option, we risk deterring future entrants to the sector and depriving future generations of creative skills. Another survey respondent, Oliver, noted:

“AI threatens having a creative industry that continues to breed and create new ideas.”

We must embrace, rather than resist, AI developments. Unleashing innovation in AI is central to economic growth, but that objective cannot be pursued at the expense of creatives. We cannot let AI replace the human creators who have built our world-leading creative industry, nor can AI content be produced off the backs of hard-working creatives without their consent. I urge the Minister to confirm that the Government will not proceed with the text and data mining exception proposed last summer, and I would welcome his assurance that all relevant stakeholders will be properly consulted in the development of alternative proposals to balance the needs of our creative and digital economy.

It is pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I do not wish to speak for a long time. I congratulate the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) on her excellent opening speech. She made some powerful and important points.

Last year, I was briefly the Minister for tech and the digital economy, and this issue came within my remit. It sits between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister’s Department, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I was surprised then, and I am surprised now, by the result of the Government’s consultation. The recommendation that was made is the most extreme of the options considered. It is unsurprising when we read the responses that, on the whole, rights holders complained that the general exemption was a bad thing, and researchers and developers who wanted to do it thought it was a good thing. However, the Government’s response seems to completely dismiss the concerns raised by rights holders and entirely favour the people who wish to exploit this data for their own benefit.

It is quite clear that people are seeking to extract value from data that other people have created in order to create products and tools from which they themselves will benefit commercially. There are already lawsuits in the music industry between musicians who claim someone else has listened to and copied their work and sought to benefit from it commercially. For example, someone could take the back catalogue of every track ever written by the Beatles to learn the techniques and methods. From that, they could create new music composed in the same style, as if the group was at its peak of writing and recording today. They would do so without the consent of the rights holders of that content, and they would make money out of it for themselves.

We can easily see how that kind of passing off could occur at scale, without any licence or exemption, or any benefit for the original creators. We should be concerned about the impact that will have on the creative economy. Many experts believe we are already very close to the day when AI will be capable of creating a new No. 1 download track or even a hit movie.

The example of the Beatles is an excellent one that we can all relate to. However, the Beatles have already generated a great deal of wealth from that back catalogue. Does the hon. Gentleman not think it would be a greater threat to new and emerging artists, who perhaps have not yet achieved the reach of the Beatles, that their copyright could be breached and their music replicated before they have even had a chance to establish themselves as an artist and as the correct owner of that work?

The hon. Lady is completely right. It has an impact on new artists in two ways. First, they are competing against AI-generated generic music from legendary artists. Secondly, the technology could be used to spot new and emerging artists who may be gaining in reputation and popularity, to quickly copy their style and techniques by analysing the data and text from their works, and creating new works from that. It opens the door to the machines really taking control of the creative process, to the detriment of original artists.

The important point of principle is that when people have created works, they should have the say on how those works are exploited. It is detrimental for another organisation that sees value in that work to take it, mine it, create something from it and claim it as its own. It would be rather like saying, when radio launched, “Well, we don’t really think that we should pay artists any money for playing their music on the radio because the radio creates a new audience for their work; more people are likely to buy records as a consequence, and charging for music would inhibit the growth of radio and radio stations, which have a huge benefit to the country.”

As technology has developed, we have decided to recognise that, with technological advances, we must reward the creators as well. Their work is exploited through those technologies to entertain and engage people, and it has a value too. If we deny them access to that value, we will restrict their work and the future work that will come from it.

I think that it is very important that there is at least an opt-in or an opt-out. The Intellectual Property Office cites other jurisdictions in the world where exemptions exist. In its preamble, it cites the EU as one of them, but what it does not say is that there are pretty fundamental differences between the way that it works in the EU and the proposals for the UK. The IPO has also taken the most extreme option of having very general exemptions.

It is very important to think about the remit of AI, because we can already see how important AI will be to shaping people’s experiences of content. Probably the best live example of AI at work today is in the way that people play video games—the way that they are designed around the user as they play them—or the way that content is recommended to people on social media platforms. That is AI-driven recommendation tools learning from the things that people like and engage with—how long they look at things and what they listen to—and pushing new content at them based on that.

When we think about metaverse and virtual-reality experiences, that will all be based on machine learning and data mining to create new experiences for people. If people doing that mining can benefit from the creativity of others to create those experiences and create those new images, and can do so without any recourse or compensation to the original creators, then that is a big power shift in the creative economy, away from creators to people who drive systems—away from the artist to the data broker and data miner.

As we see the central role that AI will play in shaping people’s experiences in the future, it would be a big mistake, at this point, to completely cut out the creatives and see their data and content exploited by somebody else without any compensation at all. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. This is an urgent issue that requires a new think.

I thank the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) for setting the scene so well, and the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) for contributing so well. When I listen to them, I am very aware that their knowledge of this subject is much greater than mine. However, I wanted, as I always do, to try to give a Northern Ireland perspective on it, because of its importance to creative workers and the creative sector.

The lockdowns were incredibly hard for so many businesses, but the creative arts were the forgotten business. I am pleased and proud to have been a member of Ards Borough Council for some 26 years prior to coming here. We had a massive focus on the creative arts. We promoted them greatly and got much out of them, as did our communities. During the covid crisis, for some three years, our musicians, actors, playwrights and theatre workers were unable to go to work, and the only way of keeping things going was to put those things online for people to enjoy and get a taster of.

Prior to the lockdowns, it was estimated that the creative industries—which are not quite the same as, but strongly overlap, the culture and heritage sectors—made up around 5% of businesses in Northern Ireland, employed around 25,000 people and accounted for 2.7% of Northern Ireland’s total gross value added, contributing some £1,088 million. That is no longer the case, as the lockdowns have decimated the sector. The hon. Member for Richmond Park put forward the case for the sector and the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe reiterated its importance, as will others who speak. I very much look forward to hearing what the Minister will say.

Thankfully, the lockdowns have ended, yet the threat to the creative industry has not lessened. Indeed, the proposals have escalated the threat. As the hon. Member for Richmond Park has put it so well:

“These proposals would be damaging to creative workers, such as in the music and publishing industries, as AI companies would be able to use their works without permission or payment. This would lead to a huge transfer of value from the creative industries to AI companies and also potentially damage the competitiveness of our world-leading creative industries”

That is the thrust of the issue. I am sure that the Minister will, as always, give an excellent response; perhaps he can solve the concerns and worries that the hon. Member for Richmond Park and others have. I look forward to that. I am given to understand that the Government and the Minister are taking this matter seriously. I know that there was a ministerial response to a question from the hon. Member for Richmond Park in December last year, yet it is right and proper for the importance of the issue to be underlined once more in Westminster Hall today.

For any computer system to be able to shred through data and text and circumnavigate the proper methodology is tantamount—I will use a Northern Ireland example, and we all know the product—to allowing someone to walk into the Tayto factory and steal the ingredients for the world’s best crisps, which of course Taytos are, and then say, “Well, they shouldn’t have put the ingredients on the outside of the packet!” I am being a wee bit facetious, but I am trying to illustrate the point in a way that all can relate to. The information is there, yet for someone to be able to walk in and take the specific ingredients without paying is not acceptable, and never can be.

I will conclude, because I am conscious that the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) wants to speak. I am on record as being supportive of our creative industry, and this protection must be in place. I know that the Minister has been listening carefully; he always responds to the questions that we pose, and I am pleased to see him in his place. I know that he will ensure that the Government enhance protection for the only source of income that many creative workers have. A world without art is a world without light, and the Government must ensure that the light continues to shine brightly from the shores of this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—always better together.

It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I am mindful of the need for the wind-ups to take place, so I will try to be brief.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) on introducing the debate and rightly stressing that there is a balance to be struck. AI will bring huge benefits to our society and to the cultural sector—indeed, the sector has been using it for many years—but it needs to have rules. We cannot have an ideological move towards tearing up rules with a deregulation agenda. Every industry needs regulations, whether they are electricity regulations or financial regulations. They benefit not only consumers and, obviously, the workforce, but companies, which get a degree of certainty about the areas in which they operate.

Colleagues have looked at some of the technical aspects and some of the specific effects on the industry. I want to put the issue in a slightly broader context. The music industry, which has rightly drawn attention to a number of the difficulties here, is one of the wider cultural industries in this country. It forms an enormously powerful ecosystem that is important not just in and of itself, and not just because of its economic benefits, but because of its wider societal benefits. It is one of the things—it is certainly not our weather—that makes the UK an attractive place to visit and work, not necessarily just in the cultural industries, but particularly in industries with more mobile international talent. Where are those people going to work? Would they rather work in Frankfurt or in London, Manchester or Edinburgh? These are very important considerations for the UK more widely.

This is not just about the technical side; the creatives are the key. Why did Disney recently change its chief executive? Because it felt that it was getting out of touch with its creative talent. Rupert Murdoch, a practitioner of realpolitik if ever there was one, famously said that “content is king”. By bringing those things together, we form a creative ecosystem that feeds on itself. That is why so many film companies are coming to the UK— because they are able to call on such a wide range of talent. It would be extremely unwise of us to create a deregulated sector, causing those considering where they should locate to ask, “Is my content safe there? Are there other jurisdictions where it would be better protected?” Those are the sorts of issues that we need to be discussing and focusing on.

We should also recognise that, as the hon. Member for Richmond Park said, it is not just those at the top. Key to the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill, which I introduced, was that nobody started by playing the O2; they started off in small venues and they built up. But people need to be able to sustain themselves. They need to be able to get an income so that they can move from playing part-time in the pub at the weekend to become semi-professional musicians, failing sometimes but then coming back. Not everyone makes it, and others decide it is not for them, but there are those who come through, which is why we had support from so many major stars for that campaign.

I urge the Minister to see that this is important not just for audiences or performers, but for the country. We see adverts at airports about “GREAT” Britain. One of the things that makes us great is our creative sector, across the board. We should be very careful about undermining what has been, for several centuries, one of its fundamental protections: the ability to protect one’s creative content, in order to benefit financially but also to have control over how it is used and to prevent it from being misused.

Thank you, Mr Robertson. I congratulate the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) on securing the debate.

As I was preparing for the debate, I was thinking about the pace at which artificial intelligence is advancing. All of us, I am sure, have seen news reports these last few weeks of free-to-use artificial intelligence sites being able to muster, at inhuman speeds, reams of error-free text or digital images in response to a simple command from a user. Vain social media users—some of them politicians, perhaps—were asking bots to touch up their profile photos. Students had been asking AIs to write their university essays. So I thought, “Why not?” I asked an AI to write me a speech about the impact of AI on the creative industries.

I discovered that I could tell the AI what tone I wanted for the speech. I was offered a choice of “poet” or “philosopher”. I went for philosopher. The AI got into its stride. “In the past,” it wrote,

“creative tasks, such as writing, editing, and design, were completed by humans, often with the help of specialised software and tools.”

“Humans.” “In the past.” It is almost chilling, Mr Robertson.

My automated pal continued. It was on a creative roll and it wanted to talk about creation. I quote:

“One of the most significant impacts of AI on the creative industry is the potential to automate”

—a split infinitive, you will notice—

“many of the creative tasks that were previously done by humans.”

Back to me again. I am not sure about other hon. Members, but I think creativity without the creative process—without the humans—just seems so soulless. On the upside—this must be music to the ears of some free-market zealots—my AI speechwriter continued:

“This automation of creative tasks can drastically reduce the cost of labour and increase production rates. Not only can AI automate creative tasks,”

it concluded,

“but it can also provide valuable insights and analysis that can help inform the creative process. AI-driven algorithms can analyse large amounts of data and provide insights into customer behaviour, audience trends, and market needs.”

So it seems it is not just creative jobs at risk; AI has already automated tech lobbyists.

Speakers have already focused on the impact of copyright, whether on established geniuses or on musicians who aspire to great careers. Could it be that AI in this context is just a euphemism for automated plagiarism? By its nature and design, AI is derivative. The algorithms driving the AI, and many others, are used to trawl the web, sucking up music, words and images that it reimagines or conflates according to preset guidelines. That all happens in a matter of seconds with little or no regard for copyright and the moral rights of the original creators.

What do we risk losing when we take the human out of humanities, if we fail to safeguard the art and livelihoods or our creators, or if we sacrifice spontaneity for speed? What would become of the poetry of Jackie Kay, the paintings of Alison Watt or the music of Julie Fowlis? Would their art ever have been imagined by the electronic soul of an AI non-being? I think we all know the answer to that.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) on securing this vital debate on the potential impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property rights for creative workers. I thank all the Members who took part and observe that although each Member who spoke before the Front-Bench speeches was from a different political party, they were united in condemning the proposals, and for very good reasons.

From the Brontë sisters to the Beatles, from Jane Austen to Arlo Parks, from David Bowie to Sam Fender, we are and have always been a country of creators. More than 3.2 million people in the UK are employed in creative sectors, and Government figures estimate that our creative industries contributed £115 billion to our economy before the pandemic. It is a great pity, then, that the Government’s creativity seems to be limited to finding excuses for their misbehaviour and their lack of active engagement in our great industries. To the Conservatives, it appears that regulation is a dirty word, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) pointed out, the right regulation can support and enhance our great industries. The digital may present a new technological frontier, but our creative industries and the AI sector do not need to be in conflict with each another. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) emphasised, AI can support and has huge potential for the creative industries, but creators need the ability to enforce their rights over their work.

The IPO’s proposals include the introduction of a new copyright exception in order to promote AI, as we heard. That would remove the need for a licence and cut the opportunity for performers or creators to be remunerated for their work and talent. The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s report on the future of the creative industries called that proposal “misguided” and asked the Government to halt the proposals. Not only would they undermine the basic principles on which our creative industries are based, but they could enable international businesses to scrape content created by others and users for commercial gain without payment to the original creators here in the UK. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, it could very much undermine our competitiveness in this key area. Last week, the singer, Rick Astley, filed a lawsuit against another musician for the impersonation of the classic hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up”. We are talking about a charter for the automation and industrialisation of such impersonations. I fail to understand why the income of our artists, musicians and creators is being risked in that way.

As part of Labour’s industrial strategy, we will shape and regulate AI technologies for the public good, increasing productivity, delivering better public services and improving the quality of life for all. That is how we grow our AI sector, not by throwing creators and artists under a bus. The UK is already well positioned to benefit from the transformation that AI can bring, but we need to look ahead to future risk, such as the potential for opaque AI systems to diverge from our intended objectives.

What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the next Adele or the next Stormzy does not have their work stolen and sold by an algorithm? For what reason has the IPO—for which he is responsible—not held discussions with the music industry, and will it now do so following this debate? What discussions has he had with the Minister responsible for the creative industries to assess the impact of the proposals? Finally, did the IPO make an estimate of how much the proposed exception will contribute to the economy, whether in AI sectoral growth or in creative industries’ loss? If the Minister is going to say that it will not go ahead, which I would welcome, he still has to explain why he allowed our important creative industries to languish in such doubt and uncertainty, and to promise that in future he will take a more active role to ensure that technological change supports our great industries.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson, and to have the chance to put the record straight in answer to the sensible points and questions made in the debate.

I congratulate and thank the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney). Had the debate not been scheduled, I would have hoped for someone to secure such a debate in order to give me a chance to explain the situation. I also thank all colleagues from across the House, from all parties, who have spoken this afternoon. I think we have covered most of the points.

It is a particular pleasure for me not only to be back in this role as the Minister responsible for AI, the Office for AI and the Intellectual Property Office, as part of my wider role as Minister for science, research, technology and innovation, but as someone who years ago ran a very basic AI drug discovery business. I mean, it was very basic: it was an algorithm with an elastic band connected to it compared with the technologies of today. It deployed basic early AI to look in the pharmacopoeia of “failed medicines” to find those that are actually dream medicines for certain segments of the population, trying to reprofile them.

I have therefore seen for myself how AI, properly deployed in an ethical framework, can be a huge driver for not only drug discovery, but better medicine and public services. I am also from a family with a lot of interest in the creative industries—my wife is a musician, artist and writer, my brother works in film and I have published a book—so I am very aware of the balance that has to be struck and that colleagues across the House have spoken about this afternoon.

I think it is fair to say, as a number of colleagues have, that AI is coming at us as a transformational technology at a pace that we have not had to deal with before in Government. The pace, the halving of technology cycles, and the speed at which it is maturing and reinventing itself are creating some big and interesting challenges for established industries, new industries that are taking shape and creators across all the different spheres of the creative industries. We need to get the balance right.

In case the Division bell goes or we have some other interruption, let me make it clear that when I returned to office, the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez), and I met promptly to look at the issue. We have written around to make it clear to other Ministers that the proposals were not correct, that we have met with a huge response, which should have been picked up in the pre-consultation before the proposals were announced, and that we are looking to stop them.

We will have a rather deeper conversation with the all-party group, whom I met yesterday, and with experts in both Houses and in the industry—creators, platforms, publishers, broadcasters and digital intermediaries—to ensure that we do not rush precipitately into a knee-jerk move that is wrong. We must try to anticipate the challenges that are coming and to get a regulatory framework in the UK that can keep pace with the pace of the technology and the issues it raises.

I reassure the hon. Member for Richmond Park, who secured the debate and asked a specific question about this, that we will not be proceeding with the proposals. I will go on to answer the question that I know the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) is going to ask me, which is, “How did this happen and what are the lessons from it?”

I thank the Minister for that welcome announcement—I presume it was an announcement? I understand that this has to go through a number of stages of inter-departmental consultation, but could he give any idea of when a definitive policy will be produced?

Theses have been written on whether it was an announcement with a capital “A” or a small “a”. I do not think I could be clearer that the two Ministers concerned agree that the proposals submitted, approved and published did not meet with the expected support. I hasten to say that they were published after I left Government, and it was a period of some turmoil. One of the lessons from this is to try not to legislate in periods of political turmoil.

The key bit of the right hon. Member’s question is: when will we see proposals? My strong instinct is that we should draw breath, take a chance to go through all the feedback from the last few months, and then, in rather more deep consultation with all the various interests, see if there are proposals that might command the support that is needed.

I am sorry to be pedantic. The Minister refers to discussions between him and the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez), which is enormously welcome. As he is speaking from the Dispatch Box, is that now Government policy?

The right hon. Member is well aware, as a veteran of these things, that for something to be a formal announcement on policy, a Government write-round has to go through the various Committees. That process is under way. Until that is done, I cannot formally confirm that it is collective responsibility Government policy, but the two Ministers concerned say that the proposals have not met with the support that was expected. [Interruption.] He has just said that that is good enough for him. I hope that it will be good enough for all those listening.

As colleagues have highlighted, the real issue is how we get the balance right. That is why AI is considered by the National Science and Technology Council, our senior Cabinet Committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and looks at the big issues that science and technology raise. I sit on that, and it is there to grapple with the big geopolitical and ethical issues that some of these technologies are raising. That is why we are working this year on both a creative industry strategy, led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and an AI regulatory strategy, which will set out our approach to regulating AI.

As the global AI revolution accelerates, we need to be aware that we are working in a global environment, and to set a regulatory framework that does not drive AI creators and investors out. We are a leading AI nation. We have an opportunity to set the regulatory framework in a way that reflects the values that this country is respected for all around the world. I think the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) knows me well enough to know that I do not believe that there is a huge dividend from scrapping all the regulations that were put on the statute book during our membership of the European Union. There is, however, a very strong case for clearing up our regulatory statute book; there is an awful lot of dead wood and daft regulations. It can be very unclear.

I have led the charge in my party for saying that a lot of the Brexit regulatory opportunities are to set the frameworks in new and fast-emerging areas, whether it is AI, autonomous vehicles, nutraceuticals or satellites. The creation of regulatory frameworks that command the confidence of both consumers and investors helps to position this country as a global testbed for innovation, drives international markets, attracts investment and establishes the UK’s leadership in standards.

As Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, I am passionate about our leaning into that sort of leadership, as well as getting rid of some of the dafter regulations, such as the one that says that coffee machines have to turn off after 30 minutes. I do not know which Committee passed that, or nodded it through one day a few years ago. The truth is that our regulatory framework is incredibly complex for regulators, innovators and investors to navigate.

I think the Minister will find that rather than our leading the way on AI regulation, both the US and the European Union have already made strides in AI regulation that it would be good for us to respond to. I wonder whether he inadvertently made an announcement with regard to the National Science and Technology Council, which he said the Prime Minister has chaired. Previous Prime Ministers have chaired it, but it was my understand that the new version was not going to be chaired by the Prime Minister. Is it chaired by the Prime Minister?

Unless an announcement has been made in the last few weeks that I have missed, yes. He has the right to depute the chairmanship of a particular meeting, but the point is it that it is the senior Committee of Cabinet dealing with science, technology and innovation. I am delighted that the Prime Minister reinstated it very early on—as soon as he took office.

The argument of the Intellectual Property Office last summer, presented to Ministers in good faith, was that if we look at what is going on around the world, there are other jurisdictions that have moved quickly to put in place similar text and data mining exemptions—in the EU, the US, Japan and Singapore. They are structured differently, but all are wider than the current UK exemptions. I do not want anyone to think that we were going out on a massive limb; we were making a move that was in the spirit of that made by other countries. There is an irony here, in that we were an active player in helping to shape some of those EU regulations. The challenge and opportunity for us, now that we are out of the EU, is to take the ambitions that we were pushing when we were in the EU and reach them more quickly and agilely—possibly even more digitally—in a new regulatory framework outside.

My hon. Friend is right that there are exemptions in other jurisdictions, but none is as wide as the ones that we have set. The most comparable jurisdiction is Singapore. While Singapore has many great qualities, it is not a net exporter of music, nor does it have a creative economy on the same scale as ours. We have been discussing the Intellectual Property Office’s response to a consultation, in which it recommended introducing these measures. Am I right to take from what the Minister said that the Government are now minded not to introduce these measures, and so that for the time being, the status quo prevails until such other proposals may be considered?

That is exactly right. I will come to some of the lessons from that in a moment, but I am happy to confirm that.

In the consultation carried out by the Intellectual Property Office, a number of consultees made the case that UK copyright law was too restrictive, and was impeding investment in AI. The point was made about text and data mining exemptions in other countries, but I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe. He has a distinguished record in these affairs as a former Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and through his career. The regulations must be proportionate and reflect the economy that we are regulating. We have an incredibly strong digital creative industry and non-digital creative industry, and we must ensure that that is appropriate.

We heard rights holders arguing that no change should be made in the UK, and we also heard not just the big AI and tech firms but researchers in the life sciences and social sciences making the case that many of them were increasingly finding problems, not with negotiating with the obvious rights holders when it was clear who they were, such as universities, but with material available on the internet. They were finding it difficult to find the person to get permission from them, and that was holding back research, especially when working with multiple rights holders. While I am happy to concede that the proposals perhaps were not correctly, fully or properly drafted, there are some issues that are still worth pursuing. The Intellectual Property Office was asking the right questions, but it is more complex than the original proposals suggested. That is why we have committed to continuing that consultation.

Yesterday, I was with the all-party parliamentary group. I have instructed the Intellectual Property Office to share its analysis of the consultation findings, so that we can sit down together and go through what the issues are that we still need to deal with, and can get the balance right. As was said by a number of colleagues from across the House, when I say “get the balance right”, there is clearly a difference between those small and sometimes voiceless creatives—whether analogue or digital, but particularly if they are not in the digital creative economy—because some may want to completely opt out and say, “I just never want to see my image turned into an avatar, ever.” People need the ability to just opt out. People also need the ability to license, to be on the front foot, and to negotiate terms, which happens.

What the Intellectual Property Office picked up on from both sides is that there is a middle ground: there are those without a strong organisational platform through which they can set out the terms on which they are prepared to have their material accessed, and there are digital creators using intermediary AI technologies to create digitally, which is a legitimate activity, and who are struggling to find that interface and make it work. It is in that space that we particularly need to look to get the balance right between our creative, digital and AI sectors. Many in those sectors are small, extraordinarily dynamic and entrepreneurial.

In Coventry, I recently met a fantastic, almost underground coding community of teenagers doing amazing things. We need to be careful to ensure that the creative industry can flourish, and that the rights of the creators, who may or may not want their material to be used, are not trampled over. If they do want their material to be used, that takes us to a second issue: fair remuneration. I have stood here and discussed this with the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) before. There are issues about rights and about remuneration. How should we ensure that small creators are properly remunerated? There are issues that we need to deal with. As a number of colleagues have said, this is about the balance between rights, responsibilities and remuneration in the world of digitalisation of content and creativity.

There are two big lessons from last summer. One is that data is important. I have started a conversation with the Intellectual Property Office to ask if we could not do more to ensure that we have better datasets on exactly what the situation is with new, emerging revenue streams, new providers and new creators. The industry is moving very fast, and when it comes to which bits of the market are working well and which are not, there is a slight lack of data on which to base policy. Creating market conditions in which everyone can have confidence is the real challenge for the Government and for me as Minister.

I tentatively suggest that there may be another lesson, which is that we should harness the power of digital technologies and digitalisation when doing consultations. I am not quite suggesting that we should have run the AI-ometer over the consultation responses, but given the number of analogue Government processes, harnessing smart intelligence systems may provide us with a good way of identifying better clusters of feedback in consultations, and help to democratise the process of consultation. It is a slightly left-field point, but I am trying to signal that as we think about these industries, we have to ensure that we are not just talking to the same people, but driving new methods of consultation to keep up with the pace of the industry.

I have probably detained you, Mr Robertson, and other Members long enough. I hope it is clear that we have listened and heard, and we are absolutely committed to making sure that we get this right. Although the Government need to be on the front foot in anticipating the regulatory framework and getting it right, the proposals have clearly elicited a response that we did not hear when they were being drafted. We have taken the responses seriously. The Minister responsible for this area—my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster —and I have made it clear that we do not want to proceed with the original proposals. We will engage seriously, cross-party and with the industry, through the IPO, to ensure that we can, when needed, frame proposals that will command the support required.

Thank you for your excellent chairing of the debate, Mr Robertson, which it is a pleasure to wind up. I am delighted to hear that the Minister has committed, as far as he is able, to withdrawing the current proposals, and that he will consult widely with all parts of our creative industry before putting forward any further proposals. I am sure everyone in this room looks forward to hearing what those are.

This debate has, perhaps, been a reflection of why our creative sector is such a stronghold of the British economy. We have been debating this cutting-edge technology in the ancient surroundings of Westminster Hall. That really points out the context and the source of so much of the uniqueness in British creativity, across all parts of the UK.

I am particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) for bringing his expertise and experience in this area, which really contributed excellently to the debate. I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (John Nicolson) for his contribution. I found it rather chilling, actually, that the phrase that sprung out at me was “software and other tools”—presumably those other tools are paintbrushes and musical instruments. It highlights that we cannot allow our human input and skills to be swallowed up by AI and, as the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire said, the very derivative nature of what we will be served up as a result.

I thank not only all Members who participated in the debate, but all the industry sector groups who spoke to me and my team about the issues they are experiencing, and particularly the artists, musicians and performers who responded to the survey. It has been incredibly useful to really understand this issue. I am particularly grateful to Megan Harding, in my office, who brought all this together and helped me with the debate.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the potential impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property rights for creative workers.

Sitting adjourned.