French AI developments: Copyright, video protection and official initiatives
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly present in our daily lives and now challenges established codes of society. From intellectual property to national security matters, the rise of AI applications has sparked numerous global debates and led several public organisations, such as the French National Consultative Commission for Human Rights, to call for regulatory measures to govern the use of AI.
In this context, the French legal framework is evolving in anticipation of the growing weight of AI in the industrial, social, and cultural landscapes. Here, we take a look at some of the more recent AI related developments in France.
Olympics security driving legal developments
Last April, the French parliament passed a law to ensure the proper conduct of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This law permits the use of the experimental “augmented video-protection” technology, which uses cameras equipped with AI systems to detect and report specific events in real time.
The modalities and safeguards of this system have been further specified by a French decree published in August 2023, which states that augmented cameras may only be used to record pre-determined events in real time, and that such recordings may only be viewed by authorised agents. The decree therefore provides for:
- a restrictive list of pre-determined events, for example abandoned objects, use of weapons, failure to respect the common direction of traffic, crossing a sensitive or forbidden area, crowd movements, excessive density of people, starting fires;
- a ban on the use of biometric identification systems;
- a description of how processing will be carried out during the design and operation phases; and
- the cooperation of the French national cybersecurity agency (the ANSSI), which must be "involved in the choice of processing to ensure compliance with cyber-security requirements".
It is noteworthy that augmented cameras are one of the CNIL's priority control themes for 2023, which may lead to investigation into the practices of companies specialising in this field.
A new Copyright framework for AI creations?
On 12 September 2023, eight members of the French Parliament introduced a proposal (the Proposed Legislation No. 1630), to amend the first book of the French Intellectual Property Code with respect to copyright. This legislative change has been proposed to address issues such as the use of copyright works in the development and operation of AI systems and the approach to authorship and copyright ownership of works generated by AI systems. Key aspects of this proposal include:
- requiring the authorisation of authors or right-holders of intellectual works protected by copyright for the incorporation and exploitation of their works by AI systems;
- ensuring that, in cases where a work was generated by AI without direct human intervention, the only right-holders of such work are the author(s) or right-holders of the works that enabled its conception;
- allowing certain collective copyright management organisations or other collective management organisations to represent right-holders and to collect fees relating to the exploitation of copyright work by AI systems;
- requiring all AI-generated works to include the reference "work generated by AI" and the names of the authors of the works that enabled their creation; and
- imposing a tax on the operators of an AI system, where a piece of work was created by the AI system, but the initial work cannot be determined. This tax is intended to increase the value of creation and is paid to the organisation responsible for collective management.
This legislative proposal, which is likely to be heavily debated in parliament, serves as a complementary addition to the broader spectrum of French initiatives in the field of AI.
An inaugural AI Committee and expert input on AI
Since the first phase of the National Strategy for AI, as launched by the French President in 2018, the advancements in generative AI, particularly large language models and deepfake technologies, have posed challenges across sectors. To address these challenges:
- the French Prime Minister established the first Generative AI Committee on 19 September 2023, which is co-chaired by economist Philippe Aghion and by the chairwoman of the board of directors of L'École Normale Supérieure - Paris Sciences et Lettres, Anne Bouverot, surrounded by 13 highly recognized experts in the field of new technologies and artificial intelligence, with the committee's primary objectives being to advise the government, adapt the national AI strategy, and position France at the forefront of the AI revolution; and
- the French Minister of Culture formed a specific group of experts composed of professors specializing in intellectual property, digital law, and economic growth and innovation, as well as authors, artists, and entrepreneurs, to study the impact of AI in the cultural sector. These experts will examine various aspects, including the potential of AI in serving creativity and access to culture, the evolution of the legal framework to protect copyright, the promotion of French and Francophone cultural works and content, as well as the impact of AI on creative professions and education.
Both the Generative AI Committee and the AI expert group aim to present their recommendations to the government concerning key challenges in generative AI, encompassing aspects like the economy, employment, inequality reduction, AI utilization within the administration, and digital sovereignty, with their conclusions expected within the next six months.
The interconnection between AI and data protection, the CNIL’s approach
In an interview with Le Monde on September 19, 2023, the President of the CNIL, Marie-Laure Denis, expressed her vision for balancing data protection and innovation. She recalls that the CNIL’s objective is to provide legal clarity to stakeholders involved in the AI field. The CNIL has already created a department dedicated to AI, launched an AI-related action plan, and released seven guidelines for the articulation of AI and personal data protection. More practical guides are set to follow, addressing various AI topics such as database creation and training methodologies, generative AI, and security requirements.
Marie-Laure Denis also testified on September 11, 2023 before an AI and data protection-focused commission within the French National Assembly. In her testimony, she advocated for the development of a three-level auditing framework to assess the compliance of AI systems with privacy regulations.
National Economic Development Initiative in the AI sector
In line with the 2018 National Strategy on AI, the French President unveiled an ambitious plan at the 2023 Vivatech event, the AI Booster France 2030 programme, which aims to promote AI in France. At the core of this plan is the "IA-cluster" initiative, which has two objectives:
- to significantly increase the number of AI experts in France by 2030; and
- to support French companies in adopting AI by providing personalised training, advice, and financial support of up to Euros 40 million to ease the creation of shared digital resources for generative AI.
While the main initiatives currently underway in France reflect a growing interest in regulating AI, some stakeholders – both in France and the EU at a larger scale - have voiced concern over the relevance of regulation, where the technology is developing at an exponential pace and has yet to be fully grasped by most. The juxtaposition of a budding legal framework and thriving technological developments is bound to trigger many more debates, as this is only the beginning of a long process of legislative developments in AI.