Intellectual Property Plan Signals Reversal on AI Policy

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of the government’s Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters on Friday.

The government’s latest intellectual property promotion blueprint states that measures will be devised to tackle copyright infringement linked to generated artificial intelligence technology, signaling a policy shift from promoting AI to restricting the technology.

The government, which adopted the plan Friday, is believed to have taken into consideration copyright infringement concerns expressed by content creators, among others.

At a meeting of the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters on Friday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “[We will] consider necessary measures, including responses to specific risks such as copyright infringement.”

This is the first time in six years that the annually formulated plan has devoted a large amount of space to AI.

In 2017, some believed that Copyright Law regulations were hindering the progress of AI technology, and the plan that year stated that “it is important to promote business creation through necessary legislation.” However, it also noted that the impact AI would have on creative activities was “unclear.”

Under the current Copyright Law, which was revised in 2018, copyrighted works can be used to train AI models without the permission of copyright holders, making Japan’s AI regulations much looser than those of Western countries.

In light of the emerging risks of generated AI, the latest intellectual property plan states that “the relationship between AI and intellectual property will be reexamined,” acknowledging that “a large amount of content that is indistinguishable from human creations can be produced [by generative AI], affecting creative activities.”

The government will begin studying specific measures in close cooperation with the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and the government’s AI strategy team, a panel comprising officials of relevant ministries and agencies.

“Relevant ministries and agencies will work with intellectual property law academics, lawyers and other experts to identify points of discussion on the issue,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Friday.

‘New framework, rules need’

The government’s intellectual property promotion plan “takes into account the concerns of rights holders,” said a 36-year-old illustrator from Osaka Prefecture who has found images online similar to her work that had been created by an AI model.

However, she called for “prompt discussions on the clarification of prohibited actions and compensation for creators.”

Meanwhile, Fumio Tanai, executive director of the Japan Photographic Copyright Association, has called for a “new framework and rules to be created based on the proposed plan,” because the current Copyright Law “shows a lack of respect toward expressive activities and artwork.”

Megumi Morisaki, president of the Arts Workers Japan Association, a group representing actors and film directors, said, “I hope the government will create opportunities to directly reflect the voices of copyright holders in future discussions.”