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EU adopts landmark Artificial Intelligence Act

Yesterday, the European Parliament (EP) adopted the Artificial Intelligence Act  (AIA), the world’s first piece of legislation comprehensively regulating artificial intelligence (AI).

Creative Commons (CC) has been actively engaged with EU policymakers on the AIA for the past years, especially as copyright issues arose front and center in the negotiations last June. In this blog post, we share a few high-level assessments of where the text landed across various key aspects impacting the commons as well as some thoughts on what lies ahead.

Open source software

We welcome the fact that the final text excludes open-source AI from some obligations, even if these exclusions are subject to conditions and come alongside ambiguity of the meaning of “open” in the context of AI overall and in the specific context of this law. Other noteworthy positives include an exemption for AI systems “specifically developed and put into service for the sole purpose of scientific research and development” and another exemption from the detailed transparency requirements for open-source general purpose AI (GPAI) models, even if they still have the obligation to put in place a policy to respect copyright law and produce a summary about the content used for model training.

AI and creativity

The AIA is largely agnostic when it comes to how the creative industries (and indeed individual creators) use AI. From our community consultation outcomes, we see some creators embracing AI, using it as a creative tool to further develop new and innovative works. Others, however, remain concerned about the impact of AI on employment in certain sectors as well as the competition aspect of more cost-effective digital/virtual solutions vis-a-vis human created works.

In response to Chat GPT’s explosive adoption, the EP introduced significant provisions, including on copyright. CC provided direct input to policymakers in public and in private on this aspect of the legislation, which touches directly on CC’s core mission.      

As ever with compromises there are aspects of the deal on copyright which are positive and others which will require further reflection and iteration. The AIA makes several cross-references to EU copyright legislation, in particular Articles 3 and 4 of the CDSM Directive on text and data mining. There are already some stakeholders who are pushing for revision of related EU legislation, including said Directive, in light of the AIA and recent technological developments. At CC we look forward to facilitating practical application of Articles 3 and 4. However, we caution against any fundamental revisions of the exceptions provided for in these articles. These are critical for ensuring a balanced copyright system. 

What happens next? A gradual application process

The Council is expected to give its final approval in the coming weeks and the Act will likely be published in the EU’s Official Journal later this spring. The Act will enter into force 20 days later, while the individual provisions will start applying in a staggered manner, with articles on prohibited AI applications applicable after 6 months (circa end of 2024), provisions on general purpose AI applicable after 12 months (circa mid-2025) and the remaining provisions applicable after 24 months (circa mid-2026). Looking further into the future, EU policymakers will no doubt have to assess how the AIA works in practice and ensure appropriate enforcement. 

We welcome the creation of the EU’s AI Office, which will soon have to start crafting technical rules, as mandated by the AIA. We look forward to engaging with the Office as it further develops important technical standards, in particular in developing an opt-out standard in alignment with existing copyright law. The Office will also have an important role in interpreting and further clarifying vaguely worded concepts, such as the requirement to publish “sufficiently detailed” summaries of inputs for large language models (LLMs) and foundation models. These rules will be crucial to provide clarity for firms and individuals regarding regime compliance. 

CC will continue to engage constructively with EU policymakers to ensure that the EU’s copyright regime remains fit for purpose in an ever-evolving digital age and that AI can be harnessed for good in support of a thriving commons.

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