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The launch of "Consultation on Copyright"

The UK Government has recently launched its “Consultation on Copyright”. This consultation opens up a range of potential future changes to UK Copyright Law for discussion.

This is a response to the recommendations made in the Hargreaves Report (you can see our report on that here). The proposals focus on expanding the fair dealing provisions, which allow the use of copyright works without permission in certain circumstances.

The proposed changes which are open for discussion include the following:

  • Creating the following new exceptions to copyright: allowing limited acts of private copying, for example copying a CD to an MP3 player; allowing parody, caricature and pastiche; allowing the use of material by Parliament and the Courts, by Royal Commissions and statutory inquiries, for public records, official registers, and other public business in the making available of materials on the internet.
  • Widening the existing exception for non-commercial research, enabling researchers to benefit more easily from previous work. This will remove the requirement for researchers to obtain permission to use certain computer techniques to read data from journal articles, even though they have already paid to access the articles.
  • Establishing licensing procedures for ‘orphan works’ (a work for which the copyright owner is unknown), enabling the use of such works provided there has been a diligent search to discover the copyright owner.
  • Making it simpler to use and collect royalties for copyrighted works by introducing a provision for voluntary extended collective licensing schemes. These would allow authorised collecting societies to license copyrighted works on behalf of all rights holders in a sector, except those who opt out.
  • Broadening the exceptions which allow libraries and archivists to copy works for archival or replacement purposes to include audiovisual and sound recordings, as well as literary, dramatic and artistic works, and widening the research and private study exception to cover all types of media.
  • Introducing a prohibition on allowing the terms of a contract to override any statutory copyright exceptions.

These proposals appear in many cases to be aimed at bringing copyright law up to date in view of new and developing technology. However, it is expected that the responses will be varied, with strong views on each side. Baroness Wilcox, the Minister for Intellectual Property, has 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.”

One party that has already submitted its views on the proposed changes is the cross-sector trade body UK Music. Though it welcomed the private copying provision, it expressed concern that there are no proposals to compensate copyright holders for this move, stating that there is “a very real danger that poorly targeted or ideologically driven changes to copyright law could instead undermine growth, both for the UK’s creative sector and those digital businesses dependent on our valuable content”.

The consultation is open for comment for 14 weeks, until 21 March 2012, and can be found here


20 December 2011

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