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Our main concern, as alluded to in my comments on the programme, is the Text and Data Mining (TDM) that is required in order to train AIs to be able to appear to replicate the human art of songwriting. Currently TDM is only permitted in UK law for non-commercial research purposes.

However, the Government have consulted on proposals to introduce a new exception into UK Copyright Law or expand the existing research exception to allow TDM "for any purpose". This would include commercial uses, potentially without any remuneration or attribution to the original creators. UK Music fed into the consultation to strongly communicate the concerns of the industry but appear to have been ignored in the government's consultation response.

The Government seems to think that deregulation of copyright will attract big tech companies to base themselves in the UK in order to take advantage, and this will generate money for the economy, jobs, and a reputation as a world leader in tech.

They have tried to placate the industry with assurances that protections will be in place for the creators of the works that may be mined in the process, but having examined their proposals for this in detail none of them are actually practically workable and will either leave creators and rights holder tied up in endless legal battles or simply watching their copyright being used for free.

Using an algorithm could result in avoiding a proper audit trail and licensing regime

To explain: How did Chat GPT come up with its Nick Cave pastiche song lyrics? It "scraped" the internet looking for examples of existing Nick Cave song lyrics and used an algorithm to rearrange existing lyrics to produce the new ones.

Now imagine the same scenario, but with a commercial company feeding in the entire back catalogue of the UK music industry and churning out fully formed songs on demand. The new material could contain composition elements, performance elements, lyrics of thousands of different songs.

Without a proper audit trail or licensing regime in place the original creators will never receive anything from the use of their works. Even with an appropriate regime in place, how much would they be likely to receive?

Something of a doomsday scenario I admit, but it is one that the government's proposal is opening the door to. AI is still at an early stage of development really, so we will only know how realistic or wide-of-the-mark this is in time.

AI in competition with human-created recordings

The other concern, which I didn't get the opportunity to voice in the programme, is that of stifling the market, and opportunities for new human-created and performed works to come through.

If AI becomes sophisticated enough to produce recordings that the public want to listen to, without human intervention, aside from the input of the source recordings, they will be in the marketplace in competition with human-created recordings, limiting opportunities for new human-created works to be heard and limiting the remuneration back to creators who rely on that income to remain doing what they do.

Undoubtedly TDM and AI will allow recordings to be made more cheaply, and this could also have a depressing effect on the money that companies who wish to remain using humans to create recording are able or willing to pay.

Imagine in years to come your new album sinking without a trace because the charts are full of albums written by AIs that were trained using your back catalogue of releases but without you receiving a penny for it. These songs could more than just "suck"!

We need protection for compositions and recordings

UK Music are continuing to push the IPO for a sensible solution to this issue. As I said on the programme, you can't put the AI genie back into the bottle.

So what we need now is protection for compositions and recordings from the proposed exception, or a rigorous licensing regime which requires a full audit trail of any copyright material used in the training of AIs, and an appropriate remuneration scheme which rewards creators and rights holders for the use of their material in any new creations.

The discussion can be viewed in full on BBC iPlayer, or you can follow the relevant highlights on our Instagram reel.

Photo ofPhil Kear
Thanks to

Phil Kear

Phil Kear is Assistant General Secretary at the Musicians’ Union. He has over 25 years’ experience in the music industry, with a specific background in royalties, copyright and licensing. Phil’s current role has oversight of the Union's four industrial departments: Education, Live Performance, Orchestras and Recording & Broadcasting. He is also responsible for the Union's Membership Services department.

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