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UK Set For New Copyright Laws

by Robin Pilgrim,, London

16 December 2011

The UK is to modernize its copyright system, in a drive to remove unnecessary barriers to growth, with proposals unveiled in a new consultation.

The consultation follows the recommendations set out by the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, which published its report in May. Professor Ian Hargreaves led a six-month independent review of the intellectual property (IP) regime, during which he was asked to consider how the national and international IP system can best work to promote innovation and growth. His recommendations aimed at providing the UK with a competitive advantage and placing it on a par with international competitors.

It is believed that the recommendations have the potential to add up to 0.6% to annual GDP and to cut the costs of doing business with IP-related business by GBP750m (USD1.1bn) within a decade. In total, it is hoped that changes to IP systems could boost the UK economy to the tune of GBP7.9bn.

The government's new consultation is part of a wider programme of work from government that includes action to tackle online infringement of copyright and to make sure the copyright system best encourages the creation and use of music, books, video and other copyright material.

The proposals, as put forward in the consultation, include:

  • Creating an exception to allow limited acts of private copying - for example making it legal to copy a CD to an MP3 player. The government says 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). It is believed 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 authorized collecting societies to license on behalf of all rights holders in a sector (except for those who choose to opt out).
  • Modernizing other exceptions to copyright including those for education, quotation, and people with disabilities.

Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said of the plans: “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. 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.”

The consultation remains open until March 21, 2012.

TAGS: compliance | business | law | intellectual property | copyright | United Kingdom | education | licensing | legislation | standards | regulation | legislation amendments

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