Thursday 15 December 2011

Copyright reform - the UK Government consults

It's all been surprisingly fast moving in the world of IP in the United Kingdom since Professor Ian Hargreaves published his review of IP and Growth - and now new government copyright proposals are being opened up for consultation until a closing date of the 21st March 2012 and the proposals are "to modernise the copyright system and remove unnecessary barriers to growth". The consultation "seeks relevant evidence on the potential for the proposed measures to improve the contribution of the copyright system to UK economic growth, and to inform decisions on legislative and other actions in these areas. The consultation is aimed at individuals and organisations, including small and medium sized business, which may be impacted by the proposed changes to UK copyright laws." So what's on the table? Well here's a snapshot:

- Creating an exception to allow limited acts of private copying – so making the widespread practice of coping a CD to an MP3 player legal saying “This move will bring copyright law into line with modern technology and the reasonable expectations of consumers.”

- Widening the exception for non-commercial research to allow data mining, enabling researchers to achieve new medical and scientific advances from existing research. Currently researchers cannot use some new computer techniques to read data from journal articles which they have already paid to access without specific permission from the copyright owners of each article.

- Introducing an exception for parody and pastiche, to give comedians and other people the creative freedom to parody someone else’s work without seeking permission from the copyright holder.

- 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.

- Introducing provision for voluntary extended collective licensing schemes, which would make it simpler to get permission to use copyrighted works and help ensure rights owners are paid. These schemes would allow authorised collecting societies to license on behalf of all rights holders in a sector (except for those who choose to opt out).

- Collection societies are also highlighted with the suggestion that they must self regulate to acceptable standards – or face statutory regulation

- Modernising other exceptions for copyright including those for education, quotation and people with disabilities

- introducing a new prohibition on allowing contractual provisions to override any of the statutory copyright exceptions.

Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said: “The Government is focused on boosting growth and some freeing up of existing copyright legislation can deliver real value to the UK economy without risking our excellent creative industries. We are encouraging businesses to come forward with thoughts and evidence on our proposals to help us achieve this” adding “It is an exciting time for the development of intellectual property in the UK. We have already appointed Richard Hooper to run a feasibility study into a Digital Copyright Exchange and this consultation is the next step to ensure copyright legislation in the UK keeps up to date with emerging technologies and consumer demand.”

There is more – and you can access the Consultation and a the response form here

Comments on the consultation can be submitted by email to or by post to David Burgess, Copyright Consultation, Intellectual Property Office, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3HF.

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