AI developers must get authorization to use copyrighted materials, India’s government declares

The chamber of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India.

Amid ongoing policy debates in numerous countries – not to mention lawsuits – over the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials to train AI models, India’s government has taken a clear side on the issue: AI developers need to get permission to use copyrighted materials, if their AI tech is for commercial purposes.

In response to questions from members of the upper house of the Parliament of India, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Som Parkash issued a statement declaring that India doesn’t need to update its intellectual property laws to adapt to artificial intelligence, because existing laws already cover innovations in AI and the use of copyrighted materials to train AI.

“The exclusive economic rights of a copyright owner such as the right of reproduction, translation, adaptation etc. granted by the Copyright Act, 1957 obligates the user of Generative AI to obtain permission to use their works for commercial purposes if such use is not covered under the fair dealing exceptions provided under Section 52 of the Copyright Act,” reads the statement, which was issued on Friday (February 9).

The Indian Music Industry (IMI), the principal group representing the country’s recorded music industry, applauded the move, with IMI President and CEO Blaise Fernandes saying he was “grateful… for the clarification.”

In India, as in other countries, the unpaid use of copyrighted materials by AI developers has become a focus of concern for intellectual property owners. In January, a group representing newspaper publishers sent a letter to various government ministries, asking for protection from copyright violations by AI developers.

“Now that we know the positive opportunity and impact of generative AI and its implications on content creators and publishers… there is an opportunity to ensure that any company or LLM (large language model) uses data in a fair and transparent way while compensating the sources from where it takes the content or data to train its models,” Digital News Publishers Association Secretary General Sujata Gupta said, as quoted by the Economic Times of India.

“The exclusive economic rights of a copyright owner… granted by the Copyright Act, 1957 obligates the user of Generative AI to obtain permission to use their works for commercial purposes.”

Som Parkash, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, India

Notably, the Indian government’s stance on AI and copyright may not be applicable to other jurisdictions, as India’s “fair dealing” exceptions to copyright law are narrower than the “fair use” exceptions in US law, legal experts told the Economic Times.

Indian newspaper owners are not the only ones concerned by the unauthorized use of their works to train AI models. In late December, the New York Times sued ChatGPT developer OpenAI, as well as Microsoft, in an effort to end the companies’ alleged use of Times content to train chatbots.

In the US, companies from the music industry and other IP-related industries have launched numerous lawsuits against AI developers. Universal Music Group (UMG), Concord Music Group and ABKCO are currently facing off in court with Anthropic, developer of the Claude chatbot, over what UMG calls “systematic and widespread infringement of… copyrighted song lyrics.”

The US Copyright Office last year launched a study of copyright law and policy issues involving AI.

In submissions to the Office this past fall, music companies argued that use of copyrighted material must be licensed, while AI developers argued that their use of copyrighted materials constitutes “fair use” – that is, it falls under existing exemptions to copyright law that allow copyrighted works to be used for a variety of purposes such as education, news reporting and research.

In the European Union, policymakers are close to finalizing the text of the AI Act, which places a requirement on AI developers to get permission for the use of copyrighted materials in training – at least for what the proposed law calls ”general-purpose” AI models.

The AI Act includes mandatory disclosure of any copyrighted material used to train “general-purpose” AI models, and a requirement to ensure that those models don’t create illegal content.

Recent drafts of the law state that “any use of copyright protected content requires the authorization of the rightholder concerned unless relevant copyright exceptions and limitations apply.”

According to an analysis from multinational law firm Morgan Lewis, the proposed law “does not state clearly whether an exemption under US copyright law, such as a finding of fair use,” would be enough to exempt an AI developer from having to license copyrighted content.

“It is possible that only authorization of the rightholder as recognized under EU copyright law will count.”Music Business Worldwide

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