Monday 7 April 2014

UK government tightens up on collecting societies

According to a media release from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the UK government has been doing some tweaking of its laws governing the activities of copyright collecting societies. States the media release, in relevant part: 
New regulations for collecting societies will offer greater clarity for people using copyright works in their business. 
Pubs, bars and shops that require a licence to play music or schools who photocopy copyright material will find to find their legal rights easier to understand as changes to the law came into force on 6 April 2014. 
Last year UK collecting societies collected a total of £1 billion in licence fees for their members. Following discussions with Government, many collecting societies have already put in place their own Codes of Practice which set out minimum standards of transparency and behaviour, as well as establishing a formal complaints procedure. 
The new law includes powers that will make sure all collecting societies comply with these minimum standards. 
Intellectual Property Minister, Lord Younger, said:
"Any efforts that support self-regulation should be welcomed. I am pleased to see the progress that collecting societies have made in agreeing minimum standards and setting their own Codes of Practice. The additional backstop power that has come into force today is there to make sure those standards are met and to give businesses the certainty and clarity they need."
Kevin Fitzgerald, Chair of the British Copyright Council (BCC) Working Group on Principle of Good Practice said:
“I warmly welcome the announcement that the Government’s regulations on Codes of Practice for collecting societies have now become law. I am sure that the positive and collaborative approach taken by the industry has helped to bring about this smooth conclusion to the legislative process. The minimum standards already adopted by collecting societies, and now underpinned by law, are an important step that will strengthen our industry. Good governance is good news for collecting societies and for the economy as a whole.”
Alexander Jackman, Head of Policy at the Forum of Private Business (FPB), commented:
“The Forum of Private Business is delighted that the regulations on Codes of Practice for collecting societies have been approved by Parliament. FPB members regularly interact with collecting societies for their licensing requirements and it is reassuring to know that there are minimum standards in place, and to have clarity around what we can expect."
The Government has published legal guidance on the new regulations for collecting societies and licensees.
The relevant legal detail can be found in the Copyright (Regulation of Relevant Licensing Bodies) Regulations 2014 (2014 No.898) -- part of a wider package of UK copyright reforms that seek to make a clearer and more accessible copyright framework for users and rights-holders. 

Somehow a law that orders collecting societies to sort things out for themselves sounds like a strange way of going about things, but there is some logic in it: each society is presumed to know its own rights, members, users and operating milieu better than any legislator does. Let's see how well it works.

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