Government proposes changes to copyright law

Copyright law is to be changed to remove unnecessary barriers to competition and growth and avoid interference in some areas of life while continuing to give content creators incentives and support in protecting their rights, the Government has announced.

The changes are intended to come into force in October this year, the Government said in its response to consultation on copyright exceptions and clarifying copyright law, published in December.

It would amend the number and scope of various categories of permitted acts, including;

  • Private copying: people will be able to copy content they have bought on to any medium or device that they own - such as transferring their music collection from CD to iPod - as long they do so strictly for their own personal use; they will not be allowed to share those copies with others.
  • Quotation and news reporting: There will be a more general permission for quotation of copyright works for any purpose, as long as any particular use is "fair dealing" and its source is acknowledged - this will allow minor uses of copyright materials, such as references and citations in academic papers, quotation as part of educational activities and short quotations on internet blogs or in tweets, as long as they are fair.

But photographs will still be excluded from news reporting provisions, as they are at present, the view being that it would rarely be fair to make unlicensed use of a photograph to report current events.

Parody, caricature and pastiche: Limited copying on a fair dealing basis will be allowed for parody, caricature and pastiche, while existing protection for moral rights, including the right to object to derogatory treatment, will be maintained.

Research and private study: User and library copying of sound recordings, films and broadcasts, without permission from the copyright holder, will be allowed for non-commercial research and private study purposes.

But the change, which expands an existing exception covering literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, is limited to fair dealing and for research, and the usage must be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

Educational institutions, libraries, archives and museums will also be permitted to offer access to the same types of copyright works on their premises by electronic means at dedicated terminals.

Reforms will also widen permitted activities in relation to data analytics and commercial research, archiving and presentation, education, and for people with disabilities.

The response document said: "The Government aims to find a balance between the interests of rights holders, creators, consumers and users by introducing through Parliament a revised framework of boundaries for copyright and related rights in the digital age.

"Legitimate users of copyright works, the vast silent majority who pay for works and value greatly the contribution that creators make to their lives, will gain important new rights to use those works. It should make those works more valuable, and creators and rights owners stand to gain some of that value, particularly where they themselves are innovating.

"The interests of creators and owners will continue to enjoy strong protection, including requirements for people to deal fairly with copyright works and robust action against those who acquire or make use of works unlawfully.

"The Government believes these measures will also benefit innovation, competition, research, education and respect for the law, and expects them to lead to further, as yet un-quantified benefits to rights holders and to the UK."

It adds: "To ensure that permitted acts have the maximum positive impact, the Government wishes them to be clearly established and readily usable, and to deal effectively with current and emerging technologies.

"It wants to shift some of the current uncertainty about whether something can be done lawfully into a question of whether a licence is needed or not.

"Consumers and users who purchase access to content should not have to pay again to store or make use of that content, if it is for their private, non-commercial use.

"The changes are in line with the Hargreaves Review recommendations, and are set in a UK context in which there is existing case law and compliance with EU law on copyright."

The response document is available at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/response-2011-copyright-final.pdf

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