The business of copyrighting in the AI/IoT age

The entire world is talking about AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (internet of things).
There are studies that show that in the near future, machines will take half of our jobs from us. Today, AI can play shogi better than we humans can. There are even AIs that can compose better music than us. I serve as the chairman for the Intellectual Property Headquarters, where an intense debate on the rights of music and works created by AIs is underway.
It was 12 years ago when I participated in the Council for Cultural Affairs’ discussion on the compensation for private sound and visual recording. While the system remains the same today, the situation at hand has changed entirely.
At the time, PCs, hard drives, CDs and DVDs were what we thought of when it came to content consumption worldwide. Today, there has been a shift to a “smart” axis consisting of smartphones, cloud services, and social media. Businesses shift their weight forward onto in subscription services and concerts. This wave will soon hit Japan’s industries as well.
Furthermore, media will soon move onto the next stage, from smart to AI and IoT.

However, this does not necessarily mean that a crisis is at hand.

Take music for example.
The younger generations are connected to a large quantity of music with their smart devices, allowing them more opportunity for entertainment. I see them living together with music in a more natural and casual way than my generation did. While this is bad for business because the music is consumed for free, I think that it might be an opportunity for “music” itself.
I spoke with a certain musician from the West Coast. Apparently, American music usually only uses 3 chords while J-POP uses dozens. He admired how rich our music was. He was right: Japan’s music has fertile ground and a competitive edge. I want us to use technology for overseas developments.
How does copyright come into play?
The debates concerning this system are still ongoing. When the TPP takes effect, measures such as copyright term extension will be put into place. There are ongoing debates in the government concerning fair use. However, regardless of their outcome, they will have very little influence.
More importantly, what strategies will Google, Apple, and Amazon take? How will video distribution services attack TV’s stronghold? What effect will the adoption of smart devices and AI have on the viewing habits of the younger generation? We need to disregard the country’s system and remake the entire copyright business from scratch.

While I am a policymaker, I cannot afford to waste time on these debates surrounding the system. More importantly, and even if it means using the existing framework, I would like to devote my resources towards finding a way to expand this smart/AI age’s copyright world.

The government has taken an enthusiastic stance for supporting content, with a focus on taking action such as creating major brands aimed at overseas development, and the creation of anti-piracy measures. At a meeting of the Japan Strategy Promotion Council last year, members discussed a policy focused on music content.

AI/IoT are in the process of taking center stage from smart devices. Depending on how we deal with it, we will either find ourselves with a great opportunity, or find ourselves in a predicament. The business will be over by the time that we finish figuring out a system. Now is the time to anticipate the future and take the necessary measures for it.


The government’s AI R&D takes new strides

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, have collaborated with each to other form a policy for the promotion of AI basic research, applied research, standardization, and human resource development. They plan to perform R&D and field tests for the implementation of IoT societies and businesses with AI at their cores. The three have stated that the accumulation of big data from each field and the qualitative/quantitative expansion of sensors will lead to the advancement of IoT. An “Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy Council” was formed at the request of the Prime Minister for its integrated advance.
While the plan seems very impressive on paper, will it really work?
According to newspaper reports, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology will require 10 billion JPY to proceed with joint development together with over 20 companies, and this cost is expected to rise up to 100 billion JPY over the next 10 years. However, considering that corporate giants such as Google and Apple invest this amount on a yearly basis, how can Japan expect to compete with them with a piddling amount of taxes? After all, we cannot forget about the 10-year 50 billion JPY failure of our Fifth Generation Computer Systems initiative.
Even so, the movement this time will be different. I feel this now after having the opportunity to sit down the people at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. There are three reasons for this:
1) Selection
Riken has established the “Center for Advanced Intelligence Project.” University of Tokyo Professor Masashi Sugiyama (41) serves as its director. I view this as intent to leave the project in the hands of a younger generation.
While big names like Carnegie Mellon University’s Takeo Kanade, the National Institute of Informatics’ Director General Masaru Kitsuregawa, and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International’s Director Mitsuo Kawato keep everyone in line from their positions as advisors, 30 spirited researchers in their 30s and 40s work under Sugiyama.
While it would be nice if the AI Center had also had researchers still in their 20s, their team is still very progressive considering that previous policy groups like this one were made up of people in their 50s and 60s. The government is becoming aware of the crisis.
2) Collaboration
The concept of three ministries working together brings up memories of previous cases in which representative politicians and bureaucrats from the three ministries would form a council, shake hands with each other, and collaborate in spirit alone. This time, however, Riken, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, each affiliated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry respectively, will be collaborating on the project.
When researchers come together into a single community, and this gathering is encouraged by the government, the researchers will become empowered.
Back while the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry was pushing for the Fifth Generation Computer Systems initiative, the former Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications was pushing for the development of a machine translation phone (I was in charge of this). The two were fierce competitors when it came to AI development, even opposing one another at times. This is a textbook example of a vertical stove-piped organization. While competition can breed good things, a government competing with itself only wastes valuable time and resources.
This time, the government has taken a serious stance towards teamwork.
3) Humanities
JST’s Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society introduced the Human Information Technology Ecosystem focus area as part of their effort to deal with the social problems brought on by AI, IoT, big data, and other modern technologies.
They plan to work with the various themes of law, institution, ethics, philosophy, economics, employment, and education.
AI and robots will take people’s jobs. They may even cause accidents. The distribution of information can lead to incidents. The research institute asks itself how it can clear this cloud of anxiety over society, or what measures can be taken again it. What must we do as a society in response to the development of technology?
While the sciences work on AI development, there must be a general mobilization of humanities experts to work on these problems. AI technology itself can be considered global, but the way that society accepts it is an extremely local problem. Japan should tackle this issue, regardless of what other countries are doing or not doing about it. I see a strong level of commitment towards bringing together the arts and sciences for this issue.
There are still many tasks left undone for the government. Deregulation for the use of AI and IoT. Making robots and drones available for use with little restriction. Finally, market development by public demand. The first step is for the government to implement AI and IoT into their operations.
If they can show that much commitment, then the rest will follow.