UK to protect commercial AI data mining from copyright claims


The UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has proposed a change to copyright law that would allow data scientists to mine text and data to train commercial AI and machine learning models without fear of infringing copyright or being obliged to pay additional fees.

The IPO made its proposal in response to a consultation on AI and intellectual property law, which followed the publication of the UK’s national AI strategy last September.

The consultation also considered whether AI systems can be recognised as inventors in patent applications, as some have called for, but the IPO has decided not to propose any changes to the UK’s ‘patent inventorship criteria’.

Under proposed new rules, data scientists will be able to use text and data mining to train AI models without fear of copyright infringement. (Image skynesher / iStock)

New UK copyright law for AI data mining

The government says the proposed changes to data mining rules “will help make the UK a location of choice for data mining and AI development”, supporting its ambitions to become a global leader in AI innovation and research.


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“We want to ensure the UK continues to have one of the best intellectual property frameworks in the world. IP is key to innovation,” said science minister George Freeman. “Our new UK rules on copyright and data mining will act as a catalyst for our innovators to flourish, helping ensure the UK’s IP system remains a powerful enabler for ground-breaking R&D.”

Under the current rules, which have been in place since 2014, data scientists are allowed to access and use third-party datasets to train their AI models without running the risk of incurring costs, but only for “non-commercial” uses. The new rules would remove this limitation, meaning that anyone with legal access to a dataset could use it for commercial AI development, and the copyright holder would be unable to impose a charge for doing so.

The IPO’s proposals mark a departure from EU law, which only allows text and data mining for scientific research, and gives the owner of datasets the option to opt out or monetize their information.

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Positive move for competitive AI development

The new text and data mining rules are a positive move for companies developing AI, says Ryan Abbott, a professor at the University of Surrey’s School of Law. “We have only recently had machines generating economically valuable creative works at commercially significant scale very recently, and allowing protection encourages people to develop and use AI to create useful works,” he says.

Imogen Ireland, an IP lawyer at global law firm Hogan Lovells, says the text and data mining proposals “signal that the UK government is committed to making the UK a competitive market for the development of AI.”

Rights holders, particularly those in the music industry, voiced concerns about the changes as part of the consultation, Ireland explains. “I think the government’s answer back to them is that it will eventually benefit you, too,” she says.

“The government talks about putting various protections in place for rights holders, such as being able to choose the types of platform which can use your data so you can pick one that may benefit you in future, and we need to see how the market as a whole will respond to this.”

The final shape of the legislation has yet to be determined, Ireland added. “There’ll be a period of reflection, and we’ve yet to see how this will surface as legislation.”

AI inventors: no changes to UK patent criteria

The consultation also considered the thorny issue of whether AI can be considered an inventor. At present, most jurisdictions, including the UK, EU and US, require a human inventor to be named on a patent application, meaning IP generated by machines cannot be easily patented. But a landmark case in South Africa last year saw it approve its first patent for an AI-generated invention.

The UK government has decided that “no changes will be made to the UK’s patent inventorship criteria or copyright computer-generated works provisions at this time”. But, it says, it will “keep AI technical development under review to help ensure that UK inventorship rules continue to support AI innovation and will seek to advance discussions internationally to support the UK’s economic interests.”

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Abbot, who represented the developer who brought the AI invention case to court in South Africa, is disappointed the UK has declined to put measures in place to protect AI-generated inventions. “It says to industries where AI is being increasingly used in R&D, such as for drug discovery and repurposing in the pharmaceutical sciences, that companies cannot use machines to generate innovation if they need patent protection,” he argues.

But the decision not to take a stance on AI inventors is a sensible one at the current time, argues Ireland. “The law is relatively well set up to deal with the way AI is currently being used in innovation,” she says. “At the moment there are a number of use cases where AI is used to assist human innovation, and in these cases, it is generally possible to identify a human inventor.”

Ireland says making AI a “new class of inventor” could negatively impact other areas of law. “It’s important to harmonize changes across the other patent regimes,” she says. “So it wasn’t a surprise [that the government has not recognised AI inventors], and I think a lot of people will be pleased to have more time to think about this question and see how the use cases for AI evolve.”

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Topics in this article: data mining, IPO, Machine Learning, Patents

英国知识产权局(IPO)提议修改版权法,允许数据科学家挖掘文本和数据,训练商业AI和机器学习模型,而不必担心侵犯版权或被迫支付额外费用。在去年9月英国公布国家人工智能战略之后,该公司就人工智能和知识产权法进行了磋商。咨询还考虑了人工智能系统是否可以被承认为专利申请的发明者,正如一些人所呼吁的那样,但此次IPO决定不对英国的“专利inventorship criteria”提出任何改变。政府表示,对数据挖掘规则的拟议改变“将有助于使英国成为数据挖掘和人工智能发展的首选地点”,支持其成为人工智能创新和研究的全球领导者的雄心。“我们希望确保英国继续拥有世界上最好的知识产权框架之一。知识产权是创新的关键,”科学部长乔治·弗里曼说。“我们英国关于版权和数据挖掘的新规则将成为我们的创新者蓬勃发展的催化剂,帮助确保英国的知识产权体系仍然是突破性研发的强大推动者。”根据2014年开始实施的现行规则,数据科学家可以访问和使用第三方数据集来训练他们的人工智能模型,而无需承担成本风险,但仅限于“非商业”用途。新规则将取消这一限制,这意味着任何合法访问数据集的人都可以将其用于商业AI开发,而版权所有者将无法为此收取费用。此次IPO的提议背离了欧盟法律,欧盟法律只允许为科学研究进行文本和数据挖掘,并允许数据集所有者选择退出或将其信息变现。萨里大学法学院(University of Surrey’s School of Law)教授瑞安•阿博特(Ryan Abbott)表示,新的文本和数据挖掘规则对开发人工智能的公司来说是一个积极的举措。他说:“直到最近,我们才有机器以巨大的商业规模产生具有经济价值的创意作品,允许保护鼓励人们开发和使用人工智能来创作有用的作品。”国际律师事务所Hogan Lovells的知识产权律师伊莫金•爱尔兰(Imogen Ireland)表示,文本和数据挖掘提案“表明,英国政府致力于让英国成为AI发展的一个有竞争力的市场”。Ireland解释说,作为咨询的一部分,版权所有者,尤其是音乐产业的版权所有者表达了对这些变化的担忧。她说:“我认为政府对他们的回答是,它最终也会让你受益。”“政府谈到了为版权所有者提供各种保护,比如能够选择可以使用你的数据的平台类型,这样你就可以选择一个可能在未来对你有利的平台,我们需要看到整个市场将如何回应这一点。”爱尔兰补充说,该法案的最终形式尚未确定。“会有一段时间进行反思,我们还没有看到它如何以立法的形式浮出水面。”此次咨询还考虑了人工智能是否可以被视为发明家这一棘手问题。目前,包括英国、欧盟和美国在内的大多数司法管辖区都要求在专利申请中注明人类发明者的名字,这意味着机器产生的知识产权不能轻易获得专利。但去年在南非的一个具有里程碑意义的案例中,该公司批准了第一项人工智能发明专利。 英国政府已经决定,“目前英国的专利inventorship标准或版权计算机生成作品的条款不会发生变化”。但该公司表示,它将“继续审查人工智能技术发展,以帮助确保英国的inventorship规则继续支持人工智能创新,并将寻求推动国际讨论,以支持英国的经济利益。”Abbot代表将人工智能发明案件告上南非法庭的开发者,他对英国拒绝采取措施保护人工智能发明感到失望。他说:“它告诉那些人工智能越来越多地用于研发的行业,比如药物发现和制药科学的再利用,企业如果需要专利保护,就不能使用机器来产生创新。”但爱尔兰认为,在当前情况下,不对人工智能发明者采取立场的决定是明智的。她说:“法律相对完善地处理了人工智能目前在创新中使用的方式。”“目前,人工智能被用于辅助人类创新的一些使用案例,在这些案例中,一般来说,识别人类发明家是可能的。”爱尔兰表示,让人工智能成为“新型发明家”可能会对其他法律领域产生负面影响。“协调其他专利制度的变化是很重要的,”她说。“所以(政府没有识别出AI发明者)并不令人意外,我认为很多人会很高兴有更多的时间来思考这个问题,看看AI的用例是如何演变的。”