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Japan: Experts and researchers raise concerns over AI copyright infringement

Japan is positioning itself to roll out new guidelines regulating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) with a view to nipping future copyright infringement cases in the bud.

The government made its opinion known via a document published by its AI Strategy Council, highlighting the risks associated with AI misuse. Topping the list of concerns for Japanese regulators is using copyrighted materials to train AI models, which could open the floodgates for an avalanche of legal cases.

Currently, there is a shortage of regulations over using copyrighted materials to train AI, and in the absence of such rules, AI platforms have operated without supervision. Japanese lawmaker Takashi Kii urged AI platforms to exercise caution in using illegally obtained information to prevent copyright infringement lawsuits in the future.

“First of all, when I checked the legal system (copyright law) in Japan regarding information analysis by AI, I found that in Japan, whether it is for nonprofit purposes, for-profit purposes, or for acts other than duplication, it is obtained from illegal sites,” Kii said.

Aside from copyright issues, Kii raised concerns over the educational use of generative AI, noting that the government was yet to publish a policy document guiding its usage in Japanese schools. In a statement, Kii offered a timeline for its launch, but the Minister in charge failed to issue any specific answer on the launch date.

“Although the attitude of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is very important for improving the work style reform of faculty and staff and handling generative AI, it was disappointing that he could not give a concrete answer on the key points of the government policy,” Kii noted.

Countries worldwide are grappling with the novel issues posed by AI usage, with privacy, job security, digital assets, and cybersecurity at the top of the list. The U.K. launched an AI task force charged with the safe development of the technology, while Australia and the European Union are seeking public opinion on the best ways to regulate the sector.

AI firms fight back

Amid concerns about copyright infringement by AI, tech firms have argued that they are not in breach of any rules because of the provision of fair use under most jurisdictions. The platforms argue that the AI bots convert the original data into newer versions, but it remains unclear if the court will give credence to their argument.

Music streaming firm Spotify has already removed thousands of AI-generated songs from the platform over concerns revolving around royalty payments. Universal Music Group had previously written to streaming services warning that AI-generated songs failed to obtain owner’s permissions before their creation.

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