European Parliament MEPs have approved a preliminary agreement to create guidelines for the use of AI in the region.

The Internal Market and Civil Liberties Committees voted 71-8, with 7 abstentions, to approve the result of negotiations with member states on the EU's Artificial Intelligence Act, according to a press release published by the European Parliament.

The regulation aims to "protect fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law and environmental sustainability from high-risk AI," while boosting innovation and Europe's position as an AI pioneer.

The AI Act would seek to impose safeguards such as copyright protections for authors, artists and other creators in the face of generative AI models, along with bans on AI applications that "threaten citizens' rights," such as biometric categorization and social scoring.

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The legislation would also require deepfaked images, audio and video to be clearly labelled.

Lawmakers also agreed on obligations for "high-risk AI systems" such as those used in critical infrastructure and essential services such as healthcare and banking.

The legislation would also allow for regulatory sandboxes and real-world testing of "innovative AI" applications before they go to market.

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The AI Act will go before the European Parliament for a vote in March or April this year, and is expected to be fully applicable 24 months after entering into force, with some provisions for bans, codes of practice, governance rules coming into effect earlier.

EU regulators have been skeptical of the blistering pace at which AI has been growing. Earlier this year, Microsoft came under scrutiny because its $10 billion investment into ChatGPT creator OpenAI raised questions about antitrust violations.

"We are inviting businesses and experts to tell us about any competition issues that they may perceive in these industries, whilst also closely monitoring AI partnerships to ensure they do not unduly distort market dynamics," Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy for the EU, said in an official statement at the time. “The European Commission is checking whether Microsoft's investment in OpenAI might be reviewable under the EU Merger Regulation.”

Edited by Stacy Elliott.

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