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Government Drops Proposed New TDM Copyright Exception

Intensive opposition from the creative industries leads to rethink of exception plans.

At a debate on the impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property in Westminster Hall on 1 February, the minister responsible for intellectual property, George Freeman MP, announced that the government would not be proceeding with their proposed copyright exception for text and data mining (TDM).

Exception Rethink

During the debate, which had been secured by Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP, the IP minister conceded that the proposals, which were announced by the government on 28 June 2022, had “not met with the support that was expected”. Mr Freeman added that the next stage would be cross party and industry engagement through the Intellectual Property Office to search for proposals that would receive sufficient support. 

The government aims for the UK to become a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next decade, however, AI relies on ingesting vast quantities of material and learning from it through text and data mining. The proposed broad copyright exception would have given AI industries, as well as anyone else wishing to apply TDM tools to content, free access to the widest possible copyright protected content for any purpose.  Such an exception would have put an end to the growing licensing market for TDM, potentially put the UK in breach of its international copyright obligations, drastically weakened the UK’s gold standard copyright regime and reduced rightsholders’ ability to control and earn from the use of their works.

United Opposition

Since the new exception was announced, the creative industries have been united in their opposition to the government’s plans. The Publishers Content Forum wrote to the then minister highlighting the publishing industry’s concerns and other creative industry bodies, including the British Copyright Council and Alliance for Intellectual Property, have been relaying the strong objections to the exception from across the sector. Dan Conway, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, added to the calls for the government to look again when he gave evidence at a session of the Lords Communications and Digital Committee.

PLS is pleased that the government has listened to the concerns of the publishing and wider creative industries and welcomes the decision to not proceed with the proposed exception. We would like to also thank all those whose efforts have helped convince the minister to rethink the previous proposal.