Home News UK government to overhaul copyright laws
UK government to overhaul copyright laws
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 14:55

Intellectual property laws to come into line with the real world, and with consumers' reasonable expectations.

The Government today announced plans to support economic growth by modernising UK intellectual property (IP) laws. The recommendations were made in May 2011 by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his report, - ‘Digital Opportunity: A review of intellectual property and growth’.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The Government is focused on boosting growth and the Hargreaves review highlighted the potential to grow the UK economy. By creating a more open intellectual property system it will allow innovative businesses to develop new products and services which will be able to compete fairly in the UK's thriving markets for consumer equipment.

"We are accepting the recommendations and will now set about reforming the UK's intellectual property systems. Opening up intellectual property laws can deliver real value to the UK economy as well as the creators and consumers."

Key points

· Copyright exceptions covering limited private copying should be introduced to realise growth opportunities. Thousands of people copy legitimately purchased content, such as a CD to a computer or portable device such as an IPod, assuming it is legal. This move will bring copyright law into line with the real world, and with consumers’ reasonable expectations.

· Copyright exceptions to allow parody should also be introduced to benefit UK production companies and make it legal for performing artists, such as comedians, to parody someone else's work without seeking permission from the copyright holder.

· The introduction of an exception to copyright for search and analysis techniques known as 'text and data mining'. Currently research scientists such as medical researchers are being hampered from working on data because it is illegal under copyright law to do this without permission of copyright owners.

· Establishing licensing and clearance procedures for orphan works (material with unknown copyright owners). This would open up a range of works that are currently locked away in libraries and museums and unavailable for consumer or research purposes.

CBI reply

Matthew Fell, CBI Director of Competitive Markets, said: "An effective intellectual property regime is essential for driving growth in modern economies. While these proposals help bring IP law up to date with modern day realities, driven by rapidly evolving technologies, some recommendations risk undermining investment in content.

"The creation of a voluntary Digital Copyright Exchange will give content creators control over how their material is used and sold.

"Businesses also accept that format shifting for individual use, for instance allowing people to upload their CDs onto an MP3 player, reflects modern consumer behaviour. However, plans for widespread copyright exemptions will undermine existing commercial models.

"While we accept that some patent thickets can present barriers to innovation and growth, the Government must avoid action that will undermine genuine patent clusters."

Silicon Roundabout community reply

The organisations, including the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA), BCS—The Chartered Institute for IT and Techhub, believe that the Review represents a milestone for the UK digital economy. It recognises—as many digital businesses and entrepreneurs have known for a long time—that the nation’s intellectual property laws, and in particular copyright law, must adapt to change.

Jeff Lynn, Chairman of Coadec, said: "Those of us who believe that the future of Britain’s economy depends largely on the digital innovations occurring among the Silicon Roundabout community and throughout the country are very happy with the Government’s response to the Hargreaves recommendations. We applaud strongly the commitment to making these pivotally important changes a reality, and we look forward to working with the Government on the detail of each of the forthcoming proposals and consultations."

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