Review of Intellectual Property and Growth

By Simon Chapman.

Last Call for evidence;  Friday 04 March 2011

Copyright is of crucial importance to many NUJ members who depend on it for their living.  The Government set up a review to look at how our current copyright legislation promotes or prevents economic growth which is being led by Professor Ian Hargreaves.

The deadline for submissions to the Independent Review on Intellectual Property and Growth is this Friday, 04 March 2011.  For more information see the website:

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipreview.htm

From an NUJ member’s perspective the most important topic covered by this review is copyright.  Copyright protects the work and livelihoods of our members as the creators of intellectual property.

If you are employed by a company the law on copyright protects the material and publications your employer creates, which in turn protects the company’s income and your job.

If you are a freelance, then copyright is the main protection you have for your work, which gives you the right to make decisions on who uses your work, and the right to be paid for use of your work including further use after first publication.

The NUJ is making its own submission, and a submission has also been made to the review by the British Photographic Council, see the submission by John Toner the chair of the BPC and the NUJ’s Freelance Organiser.

The review is open to submissions from individuals.  Note that the way the review is framed is looking at Intellectual Property as it relates to economic growth, and that the terms of reference include the cost and complexity of enforcing one’s IP rights, and the cost and complexity of SME’s accessing IP services to help them protect and exploit their IP.

Professor Hargreaves has issued a Call for Evidence.  He is interested in promoting innovation and economic growth, and in statistics or case studies based upon direct and personal experience as well as from organisations.

As a freelance business and as an SME, you might have experienced your work being used without your permission, and/or without payment.  You might have found difficulty in pursuing the copyright infringement due to the expense and complexity of the legal process, and also the lack in practice of penalties to deter infringers. This might have deterred you from undertaking certain types of work.  The NUJ is pressing for a cost effective and easier way for copyright owners to seek redress for infringement of their rights.

The lack of strong moral rights in the UK, including the right to always be credited for your work, may have led to your work being ‘orphaned’ and used by others without permission or payment.  Moral rights are not automatic but have to be actively asserted by the creator, and there are exceptions for moral rights which include newspapers and magazines so that they do not have to credit contributors.  This reduces publicity for your business and professional ‘brand’ through lack of having your work credited with a byline.  As many publications do not pay automatically and wait to be prompted, a continuing lack of credits makes it much harder to track usage of one’s work.

This lack of the ability to properly protect one’s own IP may have affected your business and income, and may have affected your willingness to work in certain sectors of the media industry.  For instance protection of IP is currently more difficult for material placed on websites, and this may deter you from working for internet based businesses.  Or you may be deterred from going freelance and starting up your own business.  The NUJ supports stronger moral rights for all creators.

Further, creators can be contractually bullied or coerced into waiving moral rights and relinquishing copyright.  The law on copyright can be trumped by contract law in the UK, whereas in some other countries such as Germany, such coercive contracts have been ruled illegal.

The NUJ is recommending that UK copyright law should move towards more author-friendly models found in Continental Europe, and that the UK Government should set an example by ending its current widespread practice of seeking copyright assignment (where the creators signs away copyright) and encourage bodies funded by the Government to do the same. Have you ever been forced to sign away your copyright?  How has this affected your work?

The review should be interested in anything which is affecting you as a creative business.  SME’s have been identified as the most likely sector to lead the UK to economic recovery.  If businesses are not prospering, then their tax returns paid to HMRC will be lower and income to the Government will be reduced.  SME’s often pay tax at higher rates than large corporations, especially multinational corporations based outside the UK.

Photographers may be interested in the British Institute of Photography’s advice on responding to the review.

So if you have direct experience and evidence of how you and your work have been affected by the current framework of intellectual property legislation and practice, then please make a submission to the review.  Submissions can be made by email  and don’t forget to include the cover sheet with your response.

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