pair of pink boxing gloves

The creative industries – and their creators – have plenty of views on how artificial intelligence technologies should be regulated. And they are very keen to communicate those views to the politicians who’ll be responsible for crafting the legislation to make those regulations happen.

However, the British government’s latest efforts to canvass those views has sparked criticism from one of the bodies that represents musicians: the Council of Music Makers.

The UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport held a roundtable yesterday with “music, film and publishing bosses” to discuss “how government and industry can address the risks AI poses to artists’ intellectual property and explore how AI can help grow the sector, supporting jobs and talent”.

That sounds like a good thing, right? Executives from Warner Music Group, Getty Images and the Publishers’ Association (as in book publishers) were part of the roundtable alongside representatives of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and Creators’ Rights Alliance.

The Council of Music Makers (CMM) isn’t happy though. It’s the umbrella body for the Featured Artists Coalition, Ivors Academy, Musicians’ Union, Music Producers Guild and MMF – bodies representing musicians, producers and managers rather than rightsholders.

“We are hugely concerned that the government is forming a roundtable which only gives one single seat to a representative of all creatives across all media (including film, theatre, literature and music), but has three seats for executives from major record companies. This is profoundly unbalanced and tone-deaf,” said the CMM in an open letter.

The letter lays bare the tensions within the UK’s music industry – but also globally – between rightsholders and musicians. In fact, the CMM waved aloft some previously-unaired dirty laundry to illustrate this.

“In July, the Council Of Music Makers asked a series of questions through UK Music about how the corporate rightsholders intended to meet the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities posed by AI,” it said.

“We also asked for a commitment that the explicit consent of artists and songwriters would be sought before their music was used to train a generative AI model. So far those questions have not been answered and that commitment has not been given.”

(For non-Brits, UK Music is another umbrella body, whose members include all five of the CMM’s members plus label bodies BPI and AIM, the Music Publishers’ Association, and collecting societies PRS for Music and PPL.)

As the open letter accepted, there was some creator representation in yesterday’s roundtable. The Creators’ Rights Alliance is yet another umbrella body (look, it’s a rainy country, we like umbrellas!) whose members include FAC, the Ivors Academy, the MMF and Musicians’ Union alongside bodies from other creative industries.

It has published its views on AI regulation, calling for creators to “have agency over and be remunerated for any uses of their work”, and it’s advocating the kind of things that the musicians’ bodies are also calling for.

Even so, the roundtable row is the latest illustration of a wider truth that should not be ignored. Music rightsholders don’t trust the tech industry to do the right things with AI unless they’re forced to. They get cross when they feel like they’re being left out of politicians’ discussions with the tech people.

But musicians – their representative bodies in this case – don’t trust rightsholders to do the right things with AI unless they’re forced to. And they also get cross when they feel like they’re being left out of politicians’ discussions with the rightsholders.

We have sympathy for the politicians who are having to choose who’s in the room, but it’s going to be very important to get the balance right whenever AI is being discussed.

That involves understanding that while rightsholders and creators in music, film, publishing and other industries are aligned on many aspects of this debate, they don’t always agree – and in those cases, both sides deserve to be heard.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight