Italy’s Publishers and Artificial Intelligence in Europe

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

As the European Parliament works through its ‘AI Act’ legislation, Italy’s publishers back the country’s industrial sector’s position.

Image: Getty iStockphoto: Nico El Nino

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Calling for the ‘Respect of Copyright’
The Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE), influential among European publishers associations, is signaling its support for the statements of the Confindustria Cultura Italia and its new position paper on artificial intelligence.

The Confindustria, as many Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, is the umbrella organization-of-organizations, bringing together manufacturing and service companies—many in the creative industries—across the market. The Confindustria represents more than 150,000 companies and at least 5.4 million employees.

Innocenzo Cipolletta

The key message on AI being sent from the organization’s offices in Rome is, “As a sector, we embrace these technological advances, but within a regulatory context that takes into account the respect of copyright.”

In a position paper issued as a sector-wide statement to the Italian economy and government, the president of the Confindustria, Innocenzo Cipolletta, says, “Artificial intelligence already has a significant impact on the cultural industry and will do so more and more in the future.

Cipolletta’s message explains the process undertaken by the sector’s leadership:

“As a sector, we have approved a position paper sent to all the reference institutional interlocutors on the subject. We are aware of the potential of these technological tools, but we are also careful to avoid the risks of artificial intelligence, in particular as regards the new forms of easily usable and widely consumed generative artificial intelligence, capable of producing many and various types of content, in a way that may lead to the erroneous belief that it is the work of a human being and without clear guarantees that the reworking of pre-existing material respects copyright.

“It is necessary that operators fully respect the rules already established in the Copyright Directive. AI developers must ensure that any content used, for which exclusive rights have been reserved, is approved and licensed by the rights holder, including content previously used by any pre-trained AI. The data processing and collection process must be as transparent as possible, in particular regarding the use of content protected by copyright.

“The foundation of the entire cultural industry is an effective copyright regime and artificial intelligence cannot be exempt. We are aware that the evolution of artificial intelligence will require continuous regulatory adjustments, but we believe it’s essential that the use of these tools, like others available to creatives and the industry, be regulated in a clear manner, guaranteeing legal certainty and safeguarding the intellectual and creative work of human beings and of the cultural industry.”

Italy’s Alignment With the EU’s ‘AI Act’ Process

Image: Getty iStockphoto: RafMaster

Cipolletta’s commentary and the position paper are being distributed both at the national level in Italy and to the European bloc—which, of course, on June 8 distributed a statement from the European parliament as it works on what the EU is characterizing as “the world’s first comprehensive AI law.”

In Europe’s statement, we read, “Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory, and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

“Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.”

One of the things helpful in almost any of the myriad early AI conversations and debates in world book markets  are the EU’s starting points that define “unacceptable risk” and “high risk.”

In “unacceptable risks,” for example, the parliamentary process statement includes:

  • “Cognitive behavioral manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behavior in children
  • “Social scoring: classifying people based on behavior, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • “Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition”

There’s a caveat there: “Some exceptions may be allowed: For instance, ‘post’-remote biometric identification systems where identification occurs after a significant delay will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes but only after court approval.”

In the category of “high risk,” the discussions include “AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights.”

These are to be divided into two categories:

  • “AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation. This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts
  • “AI systems falling into eight specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database

In this area, the law is expected to require AI system assessments before those systems can be placed onto the market “and also throughout their lifecycle.”

Under the heading of “generative AI”–which references the kind of “new” work that large language models can make from “training”—the main concern the EU process lists is transparency:

  • “Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • “Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • “Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training”

The European Parliament’s process is timed to reach an agreement by the end of the year. Members of parliament adopted the opening negotiating position on the AI act on June 14, activating talks with member-states in the EC, the European Council, on the final form of the law.

More on the European process is here.

More on publishing technology is here, more on digital publishing is here, more on publishing and innovation is here, and more on publishing and “artificial intelligence” is here. More from us on the Italian book publishing market is here, and more on Europe is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.