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Landmark European AI Act Passed By The European Parliament

AI Act nears completion

On 13 March 2024 the European Parliament voted in favour of the EU AI Act. The majority of MEPS endorsed the regulation, with 523 votes in favour, but with a material vote of 46 against and 49 abstentions. This is almost the final step in a long process which started back in April 2021.  Lead MEP, Brandi Benifei, welcomed the vote saying “We finally have the world’s first binding law on artificial intelligence, to reduce risks, create opportunities, combat discrimination, and bring transparency. Thanks to Parliament, unacceptable AI practices will be banned in Europe and the rights of workers and citizens will be protected.” However, certain MEPS who voted against the regulation indicated that the final compromise text prioritised tech companies over citizens’ safety.

The AI Act - next steps

Some work remains to be done on the final text and the law also needs to be formally endorsed by the European Council. It will come into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal, thought to be in April or May, and will be fully applicable 24 months after its entry into force. There are certain phased implementations including bans on prohibited practices, (six months after the entry into force); codes of practice (nine months after entry into force) and general-purpose AI rules including governance (twelve months after entry into force). 

AI Act – guide for businesses

We will shortly be launching our detailed guide to the AI Act. In the meantime, it is important to appreciate the wide reach that the AI Act will have. Many will be familiar with the extra-territorial scope of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and businesses situated outside the European Union will similarly need to be aware of the potential reach of the AI Act, which although it may not be as all encompassing, will still have impacts on importers and distributors into the EU, and on providers and deployers of AI systems or general purpose AI models that are placed on the market in the EU, who are established in the EU, or where the output produced by the AI system is used in the EU. See our article EU AI Act – Will it become a law for all the world?

Meanwhile in the UK

As we have previously highlighted, the UK is currently taking a very different approach to the EU. Rather than seeking to regulate AI with a comprehensive piece of legislation, the UK seeks to introduce sector-specific measures through industry standards in concert with the overarching principles it has adopted.

In February 2024 the UK government published its response to its original AI consultation. Overall, there are a number of detailed actions that are proposed, together with announcements of financial support to develop the AI ecosystem. You can read more detail  in our article: UK Government AI Regulation Response & Roadmap – Is the Government behind the wheel?

A number of unknowns remain, including in the difficult area of AI IP ownership and infringement, which we discussed in our article: UK Ruling Revitalises Discussions On Harmonizing AI And IP. We await more from the government in this area. 

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