Regulations Necessary to Protect Creative Activities by Humans

It is unacceptable to neglect copyrights that relate to intellectual and creative activities because the use of generative artificial intelligence is being promoted by emphasizing its convenience. The government should correct the problems with the Copyright Law.

The government has decided on a new version of its Intellectual Property Strategic Program, including provisions on AI for the first time in six years and mentioning its impact on copyrighted works.

The 2017 program set forth a policy of aiming to “create new business” through the use of AI.

Based on the program, the government revised the law in 2018, establishing a provision to allow AI to learn copyrighted works without the copyright holders’ consent. At that time, the Cultural Affairs Agency said learning by AI would not harm the interests of copyright holders.

However, the latest strategic program clearly states that there are “concerns that the spread of AI will affect the creative activities of creators.” The program also says that the government will consider measures to deal with cases in which AI “unreasonably harms the interests of copyright holders.”

In the United States, a group of illustrators and artists filed a class action lawsuit against AI operation companies for copyright infringement, claiming their works were imitated by AI without their consent. Such a situation could occur in Japan as well. It is only natural that the government has looked at the negative aspects of AI and tried to change course.

However, even though it intends to implement measures, the government has said it will not change the part in the law’s 2018 revision that allows AI to learn without the copyright holder’s consent. This cannot be expected to be effective enough.

The processes by which AI models generate products have not been revealed. Nevertheless, isn’t allowing AI to unconditionally learn a large amount of copyrighted works inconsistent with the Copyright Law’s principle “to ensure protection for the rights of authors … and thereby to contribute to cultural development”?

The Japan Photographic Copyright Association criticized the 2018 revision of the law, saying that it lacks respect for expressive activities and works.

Japanese administrative behaviors tend to be obsessed with “infallibility,” meaning that policy matters cannot be seen as wrong once they are implemented. Unless such an attitude is corrected, many copyright holders will certainly not be protected.

In contrast to Japan, protecting copyright holders from AI has become an important priority in Europe.

In 2019, the European Union mandated that member states establish an “opt-out” system that allows copyright holders to exclude their works from AI learning if they wish. Germany and France have already introduced such systems.

The government needs to assess the various aspects in which generative AI affects society and if necessary, should not hesitate to step in to regulate it.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 14, 2023)