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Legal Developments in Artificial Intelligence in the United Kingdom

Legal Developments in Artificial Intelligence in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is prioritising the advancement of AI technologies by establishing ethical, legal, and regulatory frameworks. The legal efforts in areas such as data protection, ethical guidelines, intellectual property rights, and strategic plans aim to ensure that AI is developed and used in a safe, fair, and accountable manner. This article aims to provide an overview of the general regulations for AI in the UK, taking into account the current legal frameworks.

1. Data Protection and Privacy Regulations

Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) and GDPR

• DPA 2018 and GDPR: As previously detailed, the processing of personal data by AI technologies is strictly regulated under these laws. They emphasise principles such as transparency, data minimisation, and security in data processing activities.
• Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO): The ICO oversees the implementation of the DPA 2018 and the protection of data rights. The ICO has the authority to enforce compliance and impose fines for violations.

2. Ethical Guidelines and Policies for AI

AI Ethics Guidelines

• AI Ethics Guidelines: These guidelines ensure the maintenance of ethical standards during the development and use of AI systems. They stress that AI applications must be fair, transparent, and accountable.
• Data Ethics Framework: Developed for the public sector, this framework assists in making ethical decisions regarding data usage. It provides guidance on the ethical use of AI and focuses particularly on preventing bias and discrimination.

3. Intellectual Property Rights

• Copyright: The uncertainties surrounding the copyright of works produced by AI necessitate new legal regulations. Existing laws are insufficient to determine the rights over the creative outputs of AI, and future regulations aim to fill this gap.

• Patents: Innovations and inventions created during the development of AI technologies can be protected under patent laws. However, there is a lack of clarity regarding the patentability of inventions made by AI, which is a subject for future legal regulations.

4. Government’s AI Strategy

• Industrial Strategy 2017: This document highlights the importance of AI for the country’s economic development and innovation and calls for investment in this area.

• National AI Strategy 2021: This strategy aims to ensure the ethical and responsible development and use of AI technologies. It provides a roadmap for how AI will be developed and managed in the UK. The strategy promotes the ethical and responsible use of AI while highlighting its role as a catalyst for innovative solutions and economic growth.

Collaboration with the European Union on AI Regulation

The UK closely monitors the EU’s regulations on artificial intelligence and incorporates relevant guidelines into its own AI policies when appropriate. Although the UK is not explicitly subject to the EU’s legal framework post-Brexit, it considers international standards and best practices in forming its AI policies, using these regulations as a significant reference point.

EU Artificial Intelligence Act

• Scope and Application: The AI Act applies to all AI systems marketed, distributed, or used within the EU, regardless of the provider’s or developer’s location.
• Risk-Based Classification: The Act classifies AI systems into unacceptable risk, high risk, limited risk, and minimal risk, with different regulatory requirements for each category.
• Requirements for High-Risk AI Systems: Providers must establish comprehensive risk management systems, provide detailed documentation, facilitate human oversight, and ensure robust data management for high-risk AI systems.
• General Purpose AI (GPAI): The Act introduces specific regulations for general-purpose AI models that can be adapted for various applications. GPAI providers must comply with copyright laws, provide updated technical documentation, and submit detailed summaries of training datasets. Certain requirements are exempt for open-source GPAI models.
• Accountability and Transparency: The Act mandates that AI systems designed for direct human interaction must be explicitly identified. It also requires the proper labelling of content-generating systems (e.g., deepfakes) with their AI origin.
• Penalties and Enforcement: Non-compliance with the Act can result in significant fines up to 35 million euros or 7% of a company’s annual revenue, whichever is greater. The Act also establishes a central database for high-risk AI systems, mandating regular updates to ensure ongoing compliance.


The United Kingdom is taking significant steps to establish ethical, legal, and regulatory frameworks to advance AI technologies. The legal efforts in areas such as data protection, ethical guidelines, intellectual property rights, and strategic plans aim to ensure the safe, fair, and accountable development and use of AI. These efforts strengthen the UK’s leadership position in AI technologies and foster innovation in this field. Regulations promoting the ethical and responsible use of AI maximise the benefits of AI technologies for society while minimising potential harms.