European Council: The New ‘AI Act’ Gets Final Approval

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The EU Artificial Intelligence Act, going into effect in June, regulates AI systems by risk level, with high fines for violations.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Kasezo

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

Michel: ‘The First Law of Its Kind in the World’
In giving its final endorsement today (May 21) for the European Union’s so-called “AI Act” to go into law, the European Council (EC) has called the measure “ground-breaking.”

As the EC’s announcement today puts it, “After being signed by the presidents of the European Parliament and of the council, the legislative act will be published in the EU’s Official Journal in the coming days and enter into force 20 days after this publication. The new regulation will apply two years after its entry into force, with some exceptions for specific provisions.” This indicates that by mid-June, the law will be going into force.

And in describing what the bloc has mandated, the statement says that this “flagship legislation follows a ‘risk-based’ approach, which means the higher the risk to cause harm to society, the stricter the rules. It is the first of its kind in the world and can set a global standard for AI regulation.”

To some degree—and often depending on who you ask, of course—professionals in publishing outside of Europe have expressed admiration and envy for the speed with which the European Parliament and Council have approached the artificial intelligence question, as well as the comprehensive nature of the new law’s provisions.

By contrast, Mathieu Michel, the Belgian secretary of state, is quoted by the EC, saying:

Mathieu Michel

“The adoption of the AI Act is a significant milestone for the European Union.

“This landmark law, the first of its kind in the world, addresses a global technological challenge that also creates opportunities for our societies and economies.

“With the AI act, Europe emphasizes the importance of trust, transparency and accountability when dealing with new technologies, while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation.”

In sharp contrast, Publishing Perspectives‘ world readership will recall, we were hearing from the United Kingdom’s Publishers Association earlier this month about the British publishers’ “deep disappointment” in their government’s reaction to a highly regarded House of Lords report on AI policy, CEO Dan Conway saying, quite forcefully, “Despite strong calls from the Lords Communications Committee and good-faith engagement by the creative industries, we still do not see any tangible commitments to protect the creative industries against mass copyright infringement in this response.”

At Reuters, Foo Yun Chee and Tassilo Hummel today are writing, “The European Union’s AI Act is more comprehensive than the United States’ light-touch voluntary compliance approach, while China’s approach aims to maintain social stability and state control.”

Foo and Hummel go on to write, “While the new legislation will apply in 2026, bans on the use of artificial intelligence in social scoring, predictive policing, and untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage will kick in in six months once the new regulation enters into force.”

Enforcement and Penalties

In its statement, the European Council sets out the creation of four governing bodies with relevance to the newly approved law, “to ensure proper enforcement.” They are:

  • “An AI Office within the European Commission to enforce the common rules across the EU
  • “A scientific panel of independent experts to support the enforcement activities
  • “An AI Board with member-states’ representatives to advise and assist the Commission and member-states on consistent and effective application of the AI Act
  • “An advisory forum for stakeholders to provide technical expertise to the AI Board and the Commission”

And among the most satisfying elements of the law for many who fear the infringement of copyrights by many generative AI systems is a note about penalties, the European Council stating (emphasis ours): “The fines for infringements to the AI act are set as a percentage of the offending company’s global annual turnover in the previous financial year or a predetermined amount, whichever is higher. SMEs and start-ups are subject to proportional administrative fines.”

In his article today for CNBC, Ryan Browne clarifies that this means, “The EU Commission will have the power to fine companies that breach the AI Act as much €35 million euros (US$38 million) or 7 percent of their annual global revenues — whichever is higher.”

Throughout various stages of the legislative process, the Federation of European Publishers in Brussels has made clear its support for the “AI Act,” in one statement saying, “The AI Act is a vital piece of legislation that will regulate the role of AI in Europe and help set a global standard for how we expect AI systems to operate.

“Europe has a unique opportunity to show global leadership in the AI framework, for the benefit of EU citizens, creators, rights holders, industry, and the wider economy.”

And as today’s action shows, Europe has grasped that opportunity and is now the world’s first governmental construct to create such a legal infrastructure on artificial intelligence, many elements of it likely to be emulated and replicated by other governmental bodies ahead.

More from Publishing Perspectives on artificial intelligence is here, more on the European Union is here, more on the Federation of European Publishers is here, and more on the publishing markets and their issues in 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.