Sabam safeguards rights of its authors for AI use
December 13, 2023

Authors' society Sabam decided, in the interest and on behalf of the authors, composers and publishers it represents, to exercise its reservation for text and data mining of its repertoire by AI tools. With this decision, Sabam, like authors' societies across Europe, wants to safeguard its authors' right to remuneration. It also calls on policymakers to quickly work towards a conclusive regulatory framework that provides more transparency when AI applications use creative works to train their systems. 

Human creativity reduced to child's play 

There is no stopping the global advance of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI applications are taking more and more forms and popping up in different domains. To generate their output, ChatGPT, DALL-E, Runway and other AI tools train their systems based on existing data and metrics. In the process, they also massively use copyright-protected works: text, music, images, audiovisual works, etc. And they do so without the knowledge of the rightholders or any form of compensation.

Legislative loophole 

AI tools cunningly exploit a loophole in existing legislation that predates their explosive development. The European Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market - and consequently our national legislation based on it - provides an exception to authors' reproduction rights for text and data mining activities. However, whether that exception also allows training of AI models is up for debate. 

Safeguarding authors' rights 

Sabam has therefore decided on behalf of its authors to exercise the legal right of reservation, as provided for in the European 'Copyright Act'. In this way, it aims to safeguard the exclusive rights of its members. AI applications wishing to use the Sabam repertoire to train their systems or perform data mining activities must from now on:

  • seek prior permission;
  • negotiate terms of use
  • and guarantee appropriate remuneration to the authors, composers and music publishers of the works they use.

Greater transparency

The voice of creators is growing louder to adapt existing legislation to the new reality. On 11 December, European policymakers in trilogue already reached political agreement on a legislative framework to regulate AI. This should provide more transparency when AI tools train their systems using creative works. The concrete formulation of the agreement and the transparency obligations it contains will have to be further developed in the coming months during the Belgian EU presidency.

Sustainable and fair balance

Sabam stresses and recognises the importance of the further development of AI tools. With its decision, it seeks a sustainable and fair balance between the rights of its authors on the one hand, and the technological development and ambitions of AI applications on the other. 

"Artificial Intelligence offers fantastic opportunities for creators and is emerging at breakneck speed as an indispensable tool at the service of human creativity." confirms Steven De Keyser, CEO of authors' society Sabam.  

"At the same time, it is our responsibility to stand up for the rights of our authors, to advocate for clear rules of the game, and to ensure that they are respected by all parties." concludes Steven De Keyser.


About Sabam

Sabam is the Belgian association for authors, composers and publishers. It manages the rights of more than 43,000 members in 5 domains: music, film & television, theatre & dance, visual arts and literature. In 2020, Sabam distributed more than € 112 million in copyright royalties. In addition, it supported more than 700 local cultural initiatives that same year, through Sabam for Culture. More than 200 employees in Brussels are working every day to defend the rights of authors. In 2022, Sabam will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

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