U.K. Creative Industry Body Chiefs Call for AI Regulation: ‘This is Not a Doomsday Scenario’

The governance of artificial intelligence (AI) is the subject of an ongoing debate in the U.K. with the government introducing a white paper proposing regulation in the sector in March this year.

The U.K. parliament’s science, innovation and technology committee is conducting a series of hearings into the subject and providing evidence on Wednesday were Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO, U.K. Music and Paul Fleming, general secretary of Equity, the U.K. trade union for creative practitioners.

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Fleming said that stable sources of income, such as radio advertisements, that allowed practitioners to work in the “more artistically fulfilling areas of the industry” like theater, were increasingly taken over by AI and that the technology had already been replacing humans in crowd scenes in film and TV shows for some time. “That opportunity to earn is being reduced,” Fleming said.

“This is not a doomsday scenario, we’re certainly not doom mongers about the technology itself. It presents a lot of other opportunities for work creation,” Fleming added, saying that there were new opportunities in the form of video games and reanimation of actors, like Peter Cushing in the Star Wars franchise.

“New opportunities have to exist within a platform or a framework of proper regulation to allow collective bargaining to thrive, but also to protect the moral and legal rights of our members,” Fleming said.

Njoku-Goodwin said that in the music industry, assistive AI had proved to be beneficial, particularly in identifying copyright infringement, audience analytics and for business models, but there was a “lot more concern” when it came to generative AI. “It’s a basic principle that if you’re using someone else’s work, you need permission for that and you need to be observing and respecting the copyright. That’s the foundation of the industry. It’s what the industry has built its success on. And the current model of innovations in AI is posing all sorts of challenges to that,” Njoku-Goodwin said, also espousing the idea of having a regulatory framework in place.

“There’s definitely a conversation we need about what sort of protection we need in terms of image rights and personality rights, because this is just an issue which is going to grow and grow not just in the music world, but across entertainment and creative industries and society more broadly,” Njoku-Goodwin added.

Meanwhile, Equity is currently running a campaign called Stop AI Stealing the Show where they state that 79% of performers who have undertaken AI work felt they did not have a full understanding of their performers’ rights (as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) before signing the contract; performers are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements without any knowledge of what the job entails; 65% of performers think the development of AI technology poses a threat to employment opportunities in the performing arts sector. This figure rose to 93% for audio artists; and that 93% of Equity members think the government should introduce new legal protections for performers, so that a performance cannot be reproduced by AI technology without their consent.

Fleming said that there are three strands to the campaign – to educate, to enforce and to expand. “Obviously, I’m here in the expand capacity, because we don’t believe that the framework within which they’re operating is strong enough. But part of it is about educating our members on their rights,” Fleming said.

“Our members, they don’t hate new technology. They’re not frightened of new technology. But what they dislike is… the malicious use of that technology in order to undermine their terms and conditions,” Fleming said.

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