EU AI Act is welcomed by the music industry

Associate Jonathan Coote comments on the passage of the EU AI Act, which was approved by the European Parliament yesterday.

The EU AI Act has been welcomed by – and could have a global impact on – the music industry.

The first obvious impact is that the EU AI Act introduces a transparency obligation which requires deep fakes to be identified, including audio deep fakes (such as “voice clones”). This is a complex area of law with no specific right preventing such uses in most territories. Whilst this will not stop their circulation entirely, it should at least mean that consumers should be aware that such deep fakes are in fact fake. This is extremely welcome for derogatory uses (such as the recent pornographic deep fakes of female stars that have appeared online).

However, there remain questions about the impact on more creative or parodic uses. For voice clones of major stars, fans may still listen to or watch them even if (or because) they have been made with AI. There is therefore still a gap for a specific “digital representation” right as has been considered in the US and proposed by UK Music in the UK. Ideally this would also include a mechanism for such rights to be commercially exploited and monetised, if the individual is happy to do this.

The second impact is that the EU AI Act enshrines and enhances EU copyright law in relation to training AI tools on copyright works (so-called “text and data mining”). EU law restricts commercial text and data mining without a licence if rightsholders have simply “opted-out”. Under the EU AI Act, providers of general purpose AI models on the EU market will have to abide by these rules and demonstrate their compliance through a sufficiently detailed summary, seemingly even if the training was conducted outside the EU. This could have profound implications for AI companies who have done this training in jurisdictions which are seen as more lenient (e.g. the US which potentially has a more flexible “fair use” defence). This could have an effect outside the EU similar to the impact of the GDPR, which created a global gold standard of compliance.

There are still questions to be asked about how policing is going to work but the Act appears to present a positive and proactive move to provide an enforcement mechanism for what is already enshrined in EU law to protect rightsholders.

Jonathan’s comments were published in Music Business Worldwide here and World Intellectual Property Review here on 13 March 2024, and in Verdict here on 19 March 2024.


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