Internet Archive: new copyright laws for generative AI would “further entrench” market leaders

The current excitement over artificial intelligence (AI), particularly generative AI, has now reached the stage where governments feel they need to do something about it in terms of regulations. The EU’s AI Act was drawn up before generative AI took off, but is now being retro-fitted with bad ideas to take account of recent developments. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic:

The U.S. Copyright Office is conducting a study regarding the copyright issues raised by generative artificial intelligence (AI). This study will collect factual information and policy views relevant to copyright law and policy. The Office will use this information to analyze the current state of the law, identify unresolved issues, and evaluate potential areas for congressional action.

One of the most noteworthy submissions to the consultation comes from the Internet Archive, which was founded by Brewster Kahle, whose Kahle/Austin Foundation supports this blog. Its basic position is simple: “while Generative AI presents a host of policy challenges that may prompt different kinds of legislative reform, we do not see that new copyright laws are needed to respond to Generative AI today.” The document goes on to explain that its comments are guided by three core principles.

One is that the regulation of generative AI should be considered “holistically – not solely through the isolated lens of copyright law.” That’s because focusing exclusively on copyright without due regard for broader issues has not worked in the past, as Walled Culture the book (available in free digital versions) explains at length. As the Internet Archive puts it:

Going down a typical copyright path of creating new rights and licensing markets could, for AI, serve to worsen social problems like inequality, surveillance and monopolistic behavior of Big Tech and Big Media.

As part of this, the Internet Archive emphasises that any new copyright regulation of AI “should not negatively impact the public’s right and ability to access information, knowledge, and culture”:

Proposals to amend the [US] Copyright Act to address AI should be evaluated by the impact such new regulations would have on the public’s access to information, knowledge, and culture. In cases where proposals would have the effect of reducing public access, they should be rejected or balanced out with appropriate exceptions and limitations.

The Internet Archive document’s third core principle concerns the impact of AI and specifically generative AI on universities, libraries and similar publicly-oriented institutions, writing that:

[they] must be able to continue to ensure the public’s access to high quality, verifiable sources of news, scientific research and other information essential to their participation in our democratic society. Strong libraries and educational institutions can help mitigate some of the challenges to our information ecosystem, including those posed by AI. Libraries should be empowered to provide access to educational resources of all sorts – including the powerful Generative AI tools now being developed.

The bulk of the document consists of the Internet Archive’s responses to the US Copyright Office’s list of questions. They provide not only thoughtful comments on the new issues raised by generative AI, but also some fascinating insights into how the Internet Archives uses or will use AI technology itself. It concludes by emphasising its key message:

Many of the concerns voiced in response to generative AI technology have their roots well beyond the scope of copyright law – in privacy, competition, and other similar areas. Creating a new rights regime and a licensing market for AI training and deployment would not solve these pre-existing problems; it would only serve to worsen them, and further entrench the largest companies who already abuse their vast stores of user data for competitive advantage.

Let’s hope the US Copyright Office listens to these wise words, but I am not holding my breath…

Featured image Fuzheado.

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