The UK government has launched a new consultation on IP rights and AI, which remains open until 7 January 2022.
The consultation is part of a wider policy push into the AI sphere, as already highlighted in the UK government's National Artificial Intelligence Strategy and in its "Call for Views" on AI and IP earlier in 2021. The aim of the consultation is to seek views from stakeholders on how AI should be dealt with in the patent and copyright systems, to support the UK’s future AI strategy.
Specifically, for some time now we have seen calls for action highlighting how the copyright and patents systems, in their current form, fail to adequately protect and cater for both human works and AI works in a new market where their respective confines are more and more blurred. The UK government is acknowledging and responding to such calls and focusing on the following three main areas for these purposes.
1. Copyright protection for computer-generated works without a human author.
Computer-generated works are currently afforded copyright protection in the UK for 50 years, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The consultation now queries whether they should be protected at all or whether a new right of reduced scope and duration should be introduced.
2. Licensing or exceptions to copyright for text and data mining (TDM).
Having to make use of works subject to copyright is often a significant obstacle to both the development (e.g. in the training phase) and the use (e.g. in research functions) of AI itself. The consultation questions whether the TDM licensing environment should be improved or extended (to cover commercial research and databases) or whether a TDM exception (with or without rights holder opt-out) should be adopted. The overall aim appears to be to retain copyright protection for such works whilst also allowing for more efficient and streamlined use of TDM by AI.
3. Patent protection for AI-devised inventions.
The key question in this context is whether AI authorship should be recognised and protected per se and on what basis. Proposals can be divided into two categories: expanding the concept of "inventor" (to include either humans responsible for an AI system devising inventions or the AI itself) or instituting a new type of protection altogether for AI-devised inventions.
The consultation also poses more general queries around the potential wider impact of such policy changes - exploring the role IP systems play in AI-related investment decisions and the possible impact on the economy and civil-society of IP (and other) policy changes that would facilitate and encourage AI adoption.
Respondents are encouraged to express their preferences in respect of the options proposed within the consultation, and to set out specific suggestions based on their expertise, commercial and practical concerns and risk appetite.
Legislative changes based on policy considerations will be needed to develop the IP framework in a way that caters for copyright works and inventions where AI plays a significant part in their development. This consultation provides an opportunity to influence the direction of those changes in the UK and companies that use AI tools would be advised to consider the consultation paper and whether to provide a response in good time before the 7 January 2022 deadline.
AI can support innovation and creativity in a range of ways. It can be a tool for scientists, entrepreneurs and artists, enabling new human inventions and creations. Some believe that AI will soon be inventing and creating things in ways that make it impossible to identify the human intellectual input in the final invention or work. Some feel this is happening now.