The UKIPO has failed to broker a deal between creative industry stakeholders and AI companies relating to use of copyright content to train AI models. Work began last summer to reach a voluntary code of conduct for this purpose, but, in its recent response to the AI White Paper consultation, the UK Government has confirmed that the working group of stakeholders it convened has not been able to agree an effective voluntary code.


In the UK, the current legal framework doesn’t allow unauthorised copying of copyright-protected content for training AI models, save where it is done for purely non-commercial purposes. That means that if a commercial AI company wishes to copy third party materials that are publicly available on the internet to train its models, it may need to obtain permission to do so from each relevant rightsholder. However, as the relevant rightsholder can be hard to identify, and as there is no streamlined licensing framework for this purpose, and as machine learning systems need vast quantities of data to learn, this process can be difficult and cumbersome in practice. 

Many content creators are also dissatisfied with the current legal framework. While their IP rights are protected in theory, they seek greater transparency from AI developers so that they can monitor use of their works and enforce their IP rights in practice.  

To address these known issues, in 2023, the UK Government convened a working group consisting of AI companies and stakeholders from the creative industries, with the aim of agreeing a voluntary code of practice on copyright and AI. The code of practice was intended to make licences for text and data mining more available in order to overcome some of the barriers that AI companies currently face in the UK, while respecting the UK copyright framework. 

Failure to agree

On 6 February, the Government published a response to the UK AI White Paper consultation (entitled “A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation”). In it, it confirmed that while the working group had provided a valuable forum for stakeholders to share their views, “unfortunately, it is now clear that the working group will not be able to agree an effective voluntary code”.

What’s next?

The Government’s response paper is light on detail as to what happens next. It says that ministers will now lead a period of engagement with the AI and rights holder sectors. Their work will include exploring mechanisms for providing greater transparency so that rights holders can better understand whether content they produce is used as an input into AI models. Legislation in this area may therefore be back on the agenda.

Read more in our recent DigiLinks blogpost: UK fails to agree AI/copyright code of practice