The UK wants to boost AI development by removing data mining hurdles

The UK wants to boost AI development by removing data mining hurdles

The U.K. is planning to tweak an existing law to allow text and data mining “for any purpose,” in a move that’s designed to boost artificial intelligence (AI) development across the country.

The announcement constitutes part of a broader strategy to “level up” AI and transform the U.K. into what it calls a “global AI superpower” — and part of this will involve reassessing existing intellectual property (IP) laws. Following a two-month consultation period where stakeholders from across the industrial spectrum were asked for input, including rightsholders, academics, lawyers, trade organisations and businesses, the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) today published its response and confirmed what will (and won’t) be changing moving forward.


Text and data mining (TDM) is pivotal to the development of new AI applications, allowing researchers and businesses to copy and harness disparate datasets to train their algorithms. However, gaining access to enough relevant data has inherent challenges — the data is often owned by third-parties that may only want to make data available under a commercial license, if they make it available at all.

Back in 2014, the U.K. amended its existing TDM regulations — which are related to the broader Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) — to include an “exception” allowing AI researchers to leverage third-party data for non-commercial purposes without incurring major costs. However, this still imposed significant limitations on how the data could be used and discouraged businesses from investing in AI development. Moreover, it didn’t extend to database rights, which is distinct from works covered by traditional copyright law.

Today’s announcement essentially resolves this. The U.K. government is now planning to adopt a TDM exception that covers any purpose far beyond research and academia, with no opt-out for rightsholders. On top of that, it also includes provisions for database rights.

This runs contrary to the comparable European Union (EU) Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which offers a mandatory exception only for TDM in the scientific research domain. Indeed, rightsholders can opt-out their copyrighted work from commercial use cases, meaning they can still monetize TDM.

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