EPUK Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland. The private mailing list and public resource for editorial photographers

AI, Text & Data Mining and what it means for you

3 September 2022 - EPUK

Reprinted with permission of the Association of Photographers (AOP)

Why should photographers and image-makers be concerned about the newly proposed Text and Data Mining exception?

  • Up to this point, the UK’s copyright framework has arguably been among the most innovation-friendly and world-leading pieces of legislation protecting creators, with careful



Reprinted with permission of the Association of Photographers (AOP)

Why should photographers and image-makers be concerned about the newly proposed Text and Data Mining exception? 

  • Up to this point, the UK’s copyright framework has arguably been among the most innovation-friendly and world-leading pieces of legislation protecting creators, with careful consideration for the significant and widespread creation of, and investment in, creative works, leading to an industry worth over 6% to the UK economy. 

  • Photographers have always embraced and utilised new technologies and innovation, adapting from analogue to digital at speed to keep up with market demands, and these days using AI-assisted tools where needed. This proposed legislation is different.
  • Currently, the Text and Data Mining (TDM) exception (to copyright protection) permits non-commercial purpose machine analysis of online content, provided that there is lawful access (such as a subscription). It is also limited to prevent the resale or reuse for other purposes, and must be accompanied by acknowledgement of the source.

  • This new proposed Text and Data Mining exception for commercial purposes – by the UK government – undermines this by freely allowing the machine mining of all imagery published online for any use by anyone, including AI developers. It would cover both copyright works and those protected by the UK Database Right.

  • With serious economic consequences for any creator, but most especially photographers with data-rich images, this proposal completely short-circuits the licensing process allowing AI developers and others free commercial access to content for which, under normal circumstances, they would have to license and pay for. 

  • On a practical level, it would mean that AI bots/crawlers would scan or read any digital images (much like many of the image infringement identification services we use already do), on your websites or social media accounts, and extract any data the bots have been programmed to search for (extracting both an image and the embedded metadata from the original source and any versions found elsewhere) at neural speeds. The bots would make copies for the AI platform in order to ‘learn’ from and, potentially, create new images. 

  • Creators are doubly harmed in that not only is a potential revenue stream being removed but the very platforms being trained using their works may ultimately replace the work they currently do! Think e-Comm fashion on artificially-generated models or make-up on AI-rendered faces, much of which is already happening.
  • On the horizon are already AI/Machine Learning programmes that have openly copied millions of images to enable owners/users to create new ones without remunerating copyright owners. This change in UK legislation would fundamentally turn the tables on creators giving way to economically harmful competition by allowing a content ‘free for all’ and invoking an unfair machine-endeavour vs. human endeavour scenario. 

What happens next… 

  • The UK government’s next step is to introduce proposed legislation with an economic impact assessment soon.
  • We need to show evidence of the economic harm this could do to AOP members and other professional photographers, to mitigate the risk to your businesses. 

  • We will be issuing a simple survey soon for all members to respond to – please do take part so we can protect your interests. 

Isabelle Doran, CEO and Nick Dunmur, Head of Business & Legal, The AOP – August 2022 


EPUK note: Although primarily designed for AOP member responses, AOP welcomes completion by any photographer who has concerns about the impact of this exception on their business.

To judge from the very rapid proliferation of AI images across social media as free-to-use illustrations credited only to the AI platform, this cannibalisation is set to replace much photography with no compensation nor attribution to the original creator for use of their copyright work as source material.


Want to contact the EPUK Website editor? editor@epuk.org

Comment on this article


EPUK reserves the right to edit or delete posts which the moderators feel are irrelevant, offensive, libelous, untrue or just plain nutty; and in extreme cases, to ban those who make them.

EPUK is discussing:

Copyright infringements abroad and how to manage themCOVID-19 and photographyEPUK Members Lockdown ShowcasePhotographing in public places - where/when/is it allowed?

What is EPUK?

EPUK is an email group for professional editorial photographers who want to talk business. We don’t do techie stuff or in-crowd gossip. We don’t talk cameras or computers. What we talk about are the nuts and bolts of being in business - like copyright, licensing, fees and insurance.

Donate to EPUK

EPUK is run on a not-for-profit basis, funded solely by advertising, donations and hosting other lists. You can make a donation to EPUK through Paypal here:

Donate Now with PayPal

Site content is © original authors. To reproduce any content on this website, contact editor@epuk.org who will put you in touch with the copyright holder. You can read our privacy policy. Any advice given on this site is not intended to replace professional advice, and EPUK and its authors accept no liability for loss or damage arising from any errors or omissions. EPUK is not responsible for third party content, such as epuk.org adverts, other websites linked to from epuk.org, or comments added to articles by visitors.