May 7, 2024
At present, the UK is a world leader in creative industries. However, creative professionals (creatives) are failing to share in the global success of these industries, following the emergence of developments like AI. This blog explores current legal and political affairs regarding the creative world in the UK.

The UK Creative Industry

The UK Government was reportedly the first in the world to define what the ‘creative industries’ are. These are ‘industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’.

The creative industries in the UK are mainly ‘managed’ by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports. This department’s function is to support culture, arts, media, sport, tourism and civil society across England. The equivalent to this in Scotland is the Culture and Major Events Directorate and the Arts Council of Wales in Wales.

The UK in particular has an impressively strong ‘creative economy’. This refers to the collective economic contribution from the creative industries and all the people employed in ‘creative occupations’ in the wider economy.

Recent data shows that the creative industries collectively contribute approximately £108 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy annually, more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined.

However, despite the powerful impact of the creative industry, many creatives experience financial hardship and poor working conditions.


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Working Conditions

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is responsible for scrutinising the work of the Department for Culture, and ultimately, advocating for the creative industry. On 10 April 2024, the Committee published a report on the working conditions for professional creatives.

For example, it is reported that professional creators in the UK are struggling to make a living from their work.

The reasons why include:

  1. A reliance on public funding
  2. The prevalence of freelancing, which leaves creators without employee rights/benefits
  3. A reduction in pay rates and remuneration through royalties
  4. Long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures
  5. The impact of technological advancements, such as AI

As a result, MPs have come together to improve these conditions:


A group of cross-party MPs have highlighted concerns that the UK has failed to create a set of robust rules regarding how AI platforms work with the creative industries. This has left these industries vulnerable to large tech companies. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee Chair also says that the government needs to fix the gaps in outdated copyright and IP regulations.

When training AI models, copyright work, such as books, music, TV, etc are used to mine data. Professionals in the creative industries have expressed concerns over AI’s potential to plagiarise and reproduce their work without providing compensation.

For example, leading tech companies, including OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google, have been brokering deals with news organisations after complaints that their content had been used to train large language models, such as ChatGPT.

In 2023, The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft over their AI’s use of copyrighted work. The lawsuit did not include an exact monetary demand but The New York Times claimed that OpenAI and Microsoft should be held responsible for ‘billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages’ related to the ‘unlawful copying and use of The Times’ uniquely valuable works’. The Times also called for companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use their copyrighted materials.

The Intellectual Property Office, the UK government’s agency overseeing copyright laws, has been working with AI companies to produce guidance on data mining where copyright works are used.

However, the group of industry executives assembled by the IPO to oversee this have been unable to agree on a voluntary code of conduct. Representatives came from various arts and news organisations, including the BBC, the British Library, the Financial Times, and tech companies Microsoft, DeepMind and Stability.

However, as they have been unable to agree on a voluntary code of practice, the responsibility has returned to officials at the Department for Science Innovation and Technology to define something legally. Consequently, the UK has shelved a ‘long-awaited’ code setting out rules on the training of AI using copyrighted material.

The committee expressed its disappointment in this and MPs raised concerns that ‘the status quo simply favours AI developers’.

Copyright & Freelancing

In the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, issues with private copying were also highlighted. This is when people copy or move content, such as songs, between their devices. A major worry from this is that it prevents creators from receiving payments from the UK market and abroad.

Similarly, MPs discovered that many artists in the UK had experienced persistent declines in their royalties. This is partly because of the adoption of digital distribution models, which pay out less to creators than physical distribution systems.

The committee calls on the UK government to ensure that creatives are compensated when this occurs, calling for a ‘private copying scheme’, as well as a Freelancers’ Commissioner to be established.

Moreover, to protect freelancers and the self-employed, which make up a minority of the creative workforce, the committee suggests a Freelancers’ Commissioner should work across departments and have powers to advocate in the interests of creative freelancers and address wider issues around contracts and working conditions.


On one hand, it is predicted that the creative industry will become a key driver of economic growth for economies like the UK. This is thanks to factors such as increased/restored disposable incomes, over-consumerism, post-Covid-19 digital domination, etc.

However, as the nation is currently facing inflation and a higher cost of living, this economic growth may not equal improved conditions for creatives. The committee report and push by MPs show signs of better opportunities for creatives, but it is still uncertain what this will look like in the next few years.

As the committee explains, the UK government should consider creating legislation in areas where codes of conduct/agreements are not reached. It is time to engage with these sectors with ‘clarity’ and ‘meaningful effect’.


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