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September 20, 2023

ASA attends Attorney-General’s AI roundtable

On 28 August, the ASA attended the copyright roundtable hosted by the Attorney General’s Department on the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) to give voice to authors’ concerns and interests regarding this emerging technology. 

There were 47 organisations present in total, broadly representing creators, publishers, broadcasters and media, cultural collections, and the tech sector.

The creator and rightsholder organisations – including the ASA – strongly argued that although there are competing views on the appropriate policy  to regulate AI, there is no legal uncertainty about how copyright law applies to the use of copyright material in the training and operation of AI systems. As we have maintained from the outset, it is our view that copying of copyright works for inclusion in a training dataset – if conducted in Australia – would be copyright infringement. 

The ASA and fellow creator organisations made clear we do not want changes to the Copyright Act and would strongly oppose any new exceptions that would permit AI companies to harvest copyright works for AI training purposes, without permission from or payment to the copyright owners of those works.

Other representatives at the roundtable, however, saw uncertainty in the law. As foreshadowed in previous government submissions, the tech and research sectors suggested new exceptions to the Copyright Act may be required to increase Australia’s global competitiveness as a destination for AI development. 

There was also some discussion about whether content generated by AI software, such as ChatGPT, ought to be protected as a copyright work. Currently, Australian copyright law only protects works authored by a human and there was broad agreement that it will continue to be up to the courts to draw the line as to how much human involvement is required for outputs to be considered a copyright work. 

Where there was near total consensus among the attendees was on the issue of  transparency as an essential principle guiding AI regulation, both for ethical reasons and to better understand whether copyright infringement is occurring.

Clearly AI is a complex and rapidly evolving topic requiring a response far beyond copyright laws, which was acknowledged at the roundtable. We don’t discount the opportunities AI presents but the ASA maintains that the unauthorised and unpaid use of copyright material to train AI tools is deeply egregious and undermines the future earning capacity of creators. As previously reported, litigation is underway overseas to challenge the practices of companies such as OpenAI and Stability AI.

Moving forward, the Department intends to establish an AI and Copyright Expert Reference Group, made up of industry representatives to provide advice and input to the Government on copyright issues. We support this initiative and will continue to advocate for an approach to AI regulation which recognises the value of authors’ and illustrators’ creative and intellectual labour.

There will also be a final roundtable in the coming months to sum up and consider next steps for each of the copyright issues discussed this year to date: Orphan Works, Remote Learning, Quotation, AI and Copyright, and the Definition of Broadcast. 

Read more about the roundtables at the Attorney-General’s Department website

We know AI continues to be a major concern for Australian writers and illustrators and will be using ongoing member feedback to inform our advocacy on this issue. If you would like to share any feedback or experiences please contact Lucy Hayward, Marketing & Communications Manager: [email protected].