Saturday 16 June 2012

Hunt to rethink UK’s new Communications Act, Cable to review Copyright, Magistrates get more powers

Embattled UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he will scrap a proposed green paper which would have kicked off the drafting of a new Communications Act, which in itself is planned to reform the way the British broadcasting and internet sectors are regulated. Hunt says he will replace the green paper with a series of 'policy seminars' to feed into a white paper early next year, which will ultimately lead to new legislation. Amongst changes mooted is the reform of regulation of the UK’s radio industry which many terrestrial radio station owners believe are too strict, given they are now competing with so many new rivals on digital networks and the internet. The radio industry is also likely to use any review to call for an axing of the public performance royalty requirement on workplaces, offices, shops and bars which play out music radio on their premises. Currently such premises need both PRS and PPL licences for using songs and sound recordings even though the radio stations have already paid royalties on the music they air (a hot topic on this Blog!).

The UK's Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, introduced the second reading of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in the House of Commons on Monday 11 June. He announced that the Government may seek to amend the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to include provisions for use of orphan works, extended collective licensing and collecting society codes.

In addition, the Government have made a number of proposals in response to the Hargreaves review of intellectual property and growth and subsequent consultation. They are needed to “ensure that the copyright system is fit for purpose in the digital age. It has been decades since the intellectual property regime was overhauled, during which time the world has changed beyond recognition. It would be negligent to leave unchanged a system suited to the cassette recorder in an era of iPads and cloud-based music services. legislation will be required for three of those reforms: the introduction of a scheme to allow extended collective licensing; one to allow the use of orphan works; and, finally, a back-stop power to allow the Government to require a collecting society to implement a statutory code of conduct, should it fail to introduce or adhere to a suitable voluntary code". 

The Government’s proposals on extended collective licensing and on the use of orphan works are designed to make it simpler for users to use copyright works legitimately, while protecting the interests of rights holders. At the same time, introducing codes of conduct for collecting societies will provide valuable reassurance to the thousands of small businesses and other organisations, including creators, that deal with them. The Government are finalising their response to the consultation on those three proposals, and if we decide to proceed we will want to move swiftly. 

The Bill presents an opportunity to do so, and I shall announce a decision on the matter as soon as possible. The Bill will also extend copyright to 70 years for some currently restricted term works and gives the power to Her Majesty's Government to amend copyright and performance right exceptions by secondary legislation. The same Bill will repeal section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 so as to provide full copyright protection for the period of the author’s life plus 70 years in respect of artistic works which are manufactured commercially. The Bill will additionally create a power to amend exceptions for copyright and rights in performances without affecting the existing criminal penalties regime. 

The IP Kat reported thatRoyal Assent has been given to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which introduces into England and Wales a wide range of reforms to the justice system -- some of which affects that complex web of laws we all know and love as intellectual property. Section 85 of the Act (not in force until a commencement order is made) removes the £5,000 upper limit on fines that can be handed down by the Magistrates' Court, thus giving magistrates more freedom to hand down fines that they consider to be proportionate to an offence. This change affects the penalties on summary conviction for many offences: counterfeiting; piracy; unauthorised receipt of broadcasts and the use of illicit decoders and copyright circumvention devices under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 

 CMU Daily  8th June 2012 and and Hansard here and the IP Kat here 

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