UK consults on copyright reform

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is asking whether laws on copyright exceptions and the current system for rights clearance are too complicated. A consultation on reforming the regime was published today.

Four questions have been put forward to stimulate debate on the creative industries. The IPO does not make any recommendations in its consultation paper.

The IPO has asked:

  1. Access to works: Is the current system too complex, in particular in relation to the licensing of rights, rights clearance and copyright exceptions? Does the legal enforcement framework work in the digital age?
  2. Incentivising investment and creativity: Does the current copyright system provide the right incentives to sustain investment and support creativity? Is this true for both creative artists and commercial rights holders? Is this true for physical and online exploitation? Are those who gain value from content paying for it?
  3. Recognising creative input: Does the current system provide the right balance between commercial certainty and the rights of creators and creative artist? Are creative artists sufficiently rewarded/ protected through their existing rights?
  4. Authenticating works: What action, if any, is needed to address issues related to authentication? In considering the rights of creative artists and other rights holders is there a case for differentiation?

The IPO said that it is seeking input from key players in the creative industries as well as from the public. A series of engagements, programmes and forums will look to develop a copyright agenda that supports creativity, investment and jobs and which inspires the confidence of businesses and users, it said.

Speaking at the launch in London, David Lammy, Minister of State for Intellectual Property and Higher Education said today: "I recognise that the UK copyright system needs to support our creative industries and all those involved in ensuring our future economic prosperity and competitiveness."

"In particular, we must recognise the work of our talented musicians and performers who should reap the rewards of their hard work throughout their lifetime. I am working with colleagues to continue discussions with our European partners," he said.

The term of copyright protection for performers has been controversial. Last week, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham proposed an extension to the term for copyright protection for performers from the current 50 years to "something like 70 years".

That proposal was attacked by Andrew Gowers, a former editor of the Financial Times who was commissioned by HM Treasury to review the country's intellectual property laws.

In his report in 2006, Gowers had argued that copyright terms should remain unchanged. Writing in the FT yesterday, Gowers described Burnham's new proposal as silly. "All the respectable research shows that copyright extension has high costs to the public and negligible benefits to the creative community," he wrote.

Today's 12-page consultation paper makes no direct reference to the extension of the copyright term, though Gowers spoke today in support of the wider consultation. "The environment in which copyright operates is subject to rapid and wrenching change, and it is important that policy adapts in parallel," he said.
Lammy praised Gowers' earlier work today. "Together with the Digital Britain initiative, Gowers recognised that intellectual property is a key issue for the future of the UK's digital economy," he said.

"Our UK copyright system does not exist in a vacuum. International and European rules set the boundaries of copyright and our work here will shape our priorities for domestic, European and international progress."

Responses to the consultation should be sent to the IPO by 6th February 2009.