Thursday, 29 October 2009

Copyright - the UK IPO's way ahead

Yesterday, the UK IPO and BIS announced their strategy for
Copyright in the digital age. The full paper is here - it explains that it draws on previous work [to which some might add that the IPO is retreading the same ground again]. Anyway, the key findings (as annotated by the author) are as follows:

"The Investigation led by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) over the course of the last year found that:

• For the first time, individual citizens have the means to create, use and distribute copyright works through digital technology. People want to make use of these opportunities but in doing so it is almost inevitable that they will violate copyright. This mismatch of expectations is significant because neither the law nor people’s attitudes is easy to change.

• Copyright is also complex for users. Much of this complexity can be addressed by rights holders and how they administer their rights. [and that means that we, the Government, don't have to carry the can for it] This would have many advantages over changes to the law, which can be slow and risks adding to rather than reducing complexity.

• Making non-commercial use less onerous for consumers, for example by removing the need to seek permission and make payment for personal use of individual copyright works, would help tackle the “mismatch of expectations” problem. But fair compensation for rights holders would be required. Action at a European level would be necessary [and that means we can kick this one into the long grass too].

• Processes for licensing copyright works need to be improved. The Government has already brought forward proposals in the Digital Britain Report, which noted problems with access to “orphan works” and the potential benefits of extended collective licensing in tackling some of these problems. Non-compulsory registration systems may also help rights holders manage their rights more effectively [and that will be down to rights owners not government, either - do I detect a theme developing here?]

• Creative industries face real challenges in monetising content. Firms must continue to
evolve products and services to offer consumers something they value at prices they are prepared to pay. [this one wins the "no sh*t Sherlock award for stating the obvious] Education and enforcement can support these efforts but cannot tackle infringement of copyright on their own.

Actions and recommendations

Based on these findings, the Government’s intentions are:

• for authors of copyright works; to support fair treatment through new model contracts and clauses and fair returns for use of their work by improving education about and enforcement of rights; [is this a commitment to do anything about education or enforcement, or just a statement of good intentions?]

• for rights holders; to help secure a viable future by encouraging the development of new business models, modernising the licensing process and maintaining support for education about and enforcement of rights; [ditto]

• for consumers; to allow them to benefit from the digital age by seeking to legitimise non-commercial use of legitimately-purchased copyright works and improving access to ‘orphan works’ such as out-of-print books;

• for educators and researchers; to support them by improving access to works, resolving issues around copyright and contract and ensuring exceptions to copyright are right for the digital age; and

• for businesses and other users; to work towards a simpler copyright system by, improving the copyright licensing process and encouraging the development of new business models.

This means:
• UK action to improve access to orphan works, enable extended collective licensing, encourage the development of model contracts and clauses, and tackle P2P fi le-sharing; and

• A willingness on the Government’s part to consider European action that provides
commonsense rules for private, non-commercial use of copyright material that will give consumers much more freedom to do what they want (such as creating mash-ups) and make clear what they cannot do.

There are a total of 51 pages of this paper, but a cynic might conclude that it contains nothing new.

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