The Government today announced its intention to bring in sweeping reforms to intellectual property rights, including copyright exemptions, orphan works legislation, and a new centralised licensing system.
Broadly accepting the recommendations of Professor Ian Hargreaves' independent report, Digital Opportunity: A review of intellectual property and growth, published this spring, the Government said it intended to bring in new legislation before the end of this parliament.
Announcing the Government's response to Professor Hargreaves' review, Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "We are accepting the recommendations and will now set about reforming the UK's intellectual property systems. Opening up intellectual property laws can deliver real value to the UK economy as well as the creators and consumers."
The key recommendations include:
• Establishing licensing and clearance procedures for orphan works (where the copyright holder cannot be immediately traced).
• The UK should have a Digital Copyright Exchange; a digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold.
• Copyright exceptions covering limited private copying, for purposes of parody, and for search and analysis techniques known as text and data mining.
Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey commented: "We need a copyright system fit for the digital age. Creating these new exceptions to copyright will enable innovators to develop new products and services. But it is essential that businesses have the right tools to protect their hard work and investment in the digital age. The UK's creative industries are a key part of our economy but online copyright infringement poses a real threat to their continued success."
The Government also announced a new strategy for tackling abuse of intellectual property.
Photography organisations have yet to voice their views on the Government's response, but many had cautiously welcomed many of Professor Hargreaves' recommendations, with the exception of his ideas for licensing orphan works, which Stop 43 described as "disastrous".
There was also criticism of the lack of detail in the recommendations, and detail is still missing in the Government's response, particularly regarding the idea for a Digital Copyright Exchange, and whether this will be free to use for creators, and - crucially - whether rights-holders who don't use the registry will still enjoy full legal protection of their copyright.
Responses to the government's announcement
"The Creators’ Rights Alliance is deeply disappointed that the government, responding to the Hargreaves review of intellectual property law this morning, , has failed to take this opportunity to deal with the fundamental issues that Professor Hargreaves considered outside his narrowly economistic brief..."
"...Professor Hargreaves’ brief excluded probably the most important consequence of the new communications technology. This is that almost every child now in school will be a published or broadcast author or performer before they can vote. Some – no-one can know which – will go on to be the professional creators on whose work the “information economy” is founded – but only if they can negotiate on a level playing field to obtain fair remuneration for their work. This too must be addressed.."
"...The CRA strongly welcomes the proposal for a Small Claims procedure to enable individual creators to pursue those who use work without permission. We are slightly encouraged by and the spirit of the proposal (contrary to Hargreaves) that, when use of work by uncontactable authors is licensed, the fee should reflect the commercial value of such uses. Any such licensing of so-called "orphan works" must be done by bodies accountable to creators in that field of work; and the licences must be reviewed if the creator shows up..."
Mike Holderness, the author of CRA's response, is also chair of the National Union of Journalists' Copyright Committee, which has issued the same statement.
IP lawyer Martyn Fish on small claims action:
The Journal reports that Fish regularly tells individual photographers and companies that it was not worth launching an action for unlawful use of their pictures because the costs of litigation in the county courts or High Court are so high.
"The problem is that the small claims track only works if the procedure is so easy that people can do it themselves," he said. "Can you make a copyright claim easy enough for people to do it themselves?"
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