In announcing the government’s response to Professor Ian Hargreaves’ report, ‘Digital Opportunity: A review of intellectual property and growth’, published in May, the business secretary, Vince Cable, says the government is accepting the recommendations.
Hargreaves’ report found that the UK’s IP and copyright laws are holding businesses back from taking opportunities both domestically and internationally. He found that current legislation was ‘obstructing innovation and economic growth in the UK’, especially for digital businesses.
As part of the reforms, Cable says people will be able make copies of music and other media for personal use, confirming leaked plans to relax the current law that makes it illegal to copy the contents of a privately-owned CD onto an mp3 player or other digital device.
But Cable has scrapped plans to introduce the blocking of illegal filesharing websites – a proposal from last year’s Digital Economy Act that media watchdog Ofcom was asked to consider. He says the proposed scheme is too cumbersome and unworkable, but other options to crackdown on the behaviour were being considered.
The accepted recommendations of the report are:
* The UK should have a Digital Copyright Exchange; a digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold. The review predicted that a Digital Copyright Exchange could add up to £2 billion a year to the UK economy by 2020. A feasibility study will now begin to establish how such an exchange will look and work.
* Copyright exceptions covering limited private copying should be introduced. This move will bring copyright law into line with the real world, and with consumers’ reasonable expectations.
* Copyright exceptions to allow parody should also be introduced to benefit UK production companies and make it legal for performing artists, such as comedians, to parody someone else’s work without seeking permission from the copyright holder.
* The introduction of an exception to copyright for search and analysis techniques known as ‘text and data mining’. Currently research scientists such as medical researchers are being hampered from working on data because it is illegal under copyright law to do this without permission of copyright owners.
* Establishing licensing and clearance procedures for orphan works (material with unknown copyright owners).
In addition, the government announced the publishing of a new intellectual property crime strategy and international strategy for intellectual property that outlines how the Intellectual Property Office will continue to enforce IP crime issues in the UK.
Cable comments, ‘By creating a more open intellectual property system it will allow innovative businesses to develop new products and services which will be able to compete fairly in the UK’s thriving markets for consumer equipment.
‘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.’