Friday 5 August 2011

After Hargreaves: further reflections

After all the Hargreaves hype and hullabaloo (see 1709 Blog posts here and here), further responses to the UK Government responses are fluttering down like leaves from early autumn trees.  Here are a few more copyright-specific responses:

The British Library

The BL: if ever there was a statue
crying out for a witty caption,
it must be this one ...
The BL has welcomed the Government’s response. According to CEO Dame Lynne Brindley,
“The British Library is delighted that the Government has recognised the importance of copyright in the digital age to education and research, and particularly welcomes the recognition of the need for legislation to ensure that hard won copyright exceptions are protected and cannot be overridden by individual contracts. 
Professor Hargreaves’ recommendations are important, as not only do they update many existing provisions in the law so they are fit for purpose in the digital age, but also strongly support innovation and scientific discovery for UK plc as is specifically the case around the proposal for text and data mining.”
Proposals to promote format-neutral research copying exceptions, streamlined rights clearance mechanisms, the digitisation of orphan works, text and data mining and digital preservation are all cited as having "an immediate benefit for research, life-long learning and teaching.

Eversheds (UK-based international law firm)

A media release from Eversheds' Neil Mohring opens with the news that, following a policy review by telecoms regulator Ofcom, the Government announced it was to drop plans to block websites that host copyright infringing material -- a key provision in the Digital Economy Act but not one that endeared the Act to internet service providers which never did like the prospect of having to shut down websites. Adds Neil:
“... it seems that the government is looking at other ways to achieve the same objective and ISPs will remain concerned about the injunction that the Motion Picture Association obtained against BT last week [noted by this blog here]. However the government has to deal with the issue of unauthorised copying if it is committed to the growth of the creative industries. There is little incentive for creators, particularly those in small businesses, if unauthorised copying is not addressed and measures such as the relaxation of the rules regarding parody are merely scratching at the surface".
Neil then turns to format-shifting which, he notes "will have little substantive effect overall. Format-shifting has been occurring for many years without action by the copyright owners, so the proposed changes will merely formalise the current position”.

Federation Against Software Theft (FAST)

FAST General Counsel Julian Heathcote Hobbins takes a positive overall view of the government’s response which, he stresses, shows that "the government clearly understands the importance of intellectual property to the growth of the UK economy and our position globally as a creative and innovative hub". However,
"The decision not to bring forward streamlined site-blocking sanctions to be enforced by Internet Service Providers is a damaging limitation on the arsenal available to tackle piracy. A variety of tools are needed for effective enforcement and this is a worrying retrograde step.The pirates just reposition these sites utilising the internet’s global structure in a game of cat and mouse".
In the same media releas, Beachcroft LLP partner Robin Fry, added that last week's NewzBin2 ruling
"makes it clear that software vendors will still be able to get direct orders against ISPs to block access to file-sharing websites. Such action is likely to be predictable and cost-effective but only after a number of successful applications have been brought where rights holders become familiar with the system”.
He adds that cost is such a significant factor for small and micro-sized organisations when deciding to press their cases that the government decision t drop site-blocking plans "only weakens their position".

FAST concludes by welcoming the principle of a Digital Copyright Exchange -- but it does not see how this proposal could apply to software.

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