Sunday 1 June 2014

Not a secret: new wave of Regulations helps deregulate UK copyright from today

An excited media release has been received from the UK's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.  It looks something like this.  There may be a reason why this news has been strictly embargoed and marked "not for publication or broadcast until 00.01 on Sunday 1st June 2014", but it's not apparent to this blogger.  So far as he can tell, all the information contained in it is already well known to the British copyright community and accessible to the public -- and there's nothing earthshaking or ground-breaking in the Minister's words, no shock announcement of free beer for all collective management societies or the long-overdue introduction of a statutory "bloggers' right" ...


Reforms to copyright law come into force today bringing estimated benefits of at least £250 million to the UK economy over the next 10 years [Not complaining, but that's a disappointingly low sum. Even Simon Cowell is valued at more than that.  You could buy a house, though ...].

The reforms will give a number of sectors a legal framework fit for the digital age, removing the burden of unnecessary regulations and helping the UK better preserve and use copyright material.

Changes from today include the removal of copyright barriers to Text and Data Mining ['data mining' is a tricky term, since it seems to mean different things to different people -- but it does sound good] for non-commercial research. This important analytic technique helps the UK’s scientific and academic community to deliver new advances in medicine, technology and research. Other essential changes will help organisations from charities to museums and archives both use and protect their own material.

Intellectual Property Minister Lord Younger said:
“These common sense reforms will update the UK’s copyright system for the digital age, and help to build and maintain public confidence and respect for copyright.

These changes bring an end to many instances where people carrying out minor, reasonable acts of copying could have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The text and data mining exception is a particularly important step forward for researchers in the UK and will ensure they have the tools that they need to maintain their competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace.”
The exceptions coming into force today will bring a range of benefits to a wide range of groups:

Disabled people and disability groups can now make accessible copies of copyright material (e.g. music, film, books) when no commercial alternative exists.

Researchers will benefit from the introduction of the new text and data mining exception for non-commercial research, as well as the reforms to existing exceptions that will enable limited copying of all types of copyright works for non-commercial research and private study.

Schools, colleges and universities can now use copyright material on interactive whiteboards and in presentations, and as long as they have a licence, they will not need to worry about accidentally infringing copyright.

Libraries, archives and museums will now be better able to protect our cultural heritage and preserve their collections. The existing preservation exception has been expanded to cover all types of copyright work, and now applies to museums and galleries as well as libraries and archives. Removing the barriers to preservation will save cultural institutions up to £26m per year.

Public bodies can now publish online the material they hold for public inspection, reducing costs and administrative burden of having to issues paper copies or requiring people to come to their offices.

The Government is also committed to introducing exceptions for private copying and parody and quotation once they have been approved by Parliament.
For the record, the pieces of legislation in question (which have the potential to bring a good deal of benefit, much of it financially unquantifiable, to a lot of people) are

  • The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014 
  • The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Research, Education, Libraries and Archives) Regulations 2014
  • The Copyright (Public Administration) Regulations 2014 

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