Intellectual Property Office consultation on copyright

By Simon Chapman

Here is an update on IPO’s consultation on copyright, which is the last stage before the Government puts forward its ideas in a communications bill for change to our Intellectual Property system on which many freelances depend for their income.

The Intellectual Property Office asked for views and evidence on the implications of ideas from the Hargreaves report on Intellectual Property and Growth, and their consultation ends on 21 March.

The Government is keen to promote economic growth.  But in the eyes of many the Hargreaves report proposed growth for some sectors at the expense of others, notably freelances who create the individual works on which the creative economy is based.

Much of the pressure for changes to copyright is coming from the ‘cultural heritage sector’ of libraries and museums and the education sector.

The IPO is consulting on Hargreaves’ recommendations include commercial use of orphan works, extended collective licensing (ECL), and increasing exceptions to copyright including in education.  Some freelances who specialise in producing educational materials are very dependent on the payment they receive for use of their work by the education sector.

What Hargreaves and proponents of greater exceptions and ECL ignored is the fact that modern digital networks increase the ability to conduct individual transactions between rightsholders and users.  Such transactions can now be logged digitally which makes it easier to conduct individual primary licensing, the opposite of blanket exceptions and secondary collective licensing.

Those who use content may benefit in the short-term from exceptions and ECL if it costs less for them to licence content, but that does not help creators including those in the media who produce the work in the first place and are the bedrock of the creative economy.

That is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and in the medium to longer term will wreck the creative economy as creators will have no incentive to produce new work.  They will not provide the long-term growth in the creative sector that the Government sought from the review.

I am involved with the campaign group Stop43 who have produced a useful round up of the current state of play here.  To summarise Stop43 say that copyright exceptions and extended collective licensing are anti-innovation, anti-digital, anti-competitive, and discriminate against copyright owners.

Stop 43’s idea of a National Cultural Archive encouraged strictly defined cultural use (including orphan works) that did not unduly conflict with the normal exploitation and income generation of creators’ work.

The most useful part of the IPO consultation is Hargreaves’ proposal of a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE), which does seem to have been inspired by the National Cultural Archive idea.  If done right, a DCE would register contact details of rights holders and make it much easier for would-be users of their work to make contact and negotiate direct primary licences for use with the rightsholders.

It is also now technically possible to have databases of photographs and illustrations online which are visually searchable using software, so that again those who are interested in using a work can make direct contact with the rightsholder.

Exceptions to copyright and for ECL are increasingly an outdated solution in the digital age, and should not be increased.  The way to promote growth in the creative economy is to strengthen the rights of creators, not weaken them.  To this end we need better moral rights, fair contract law and effective penalties for copyright infringement and the NUJ has been proposing these for many years.

The IPO has been accused of having its own anti-copyright agenda, which seems strange for a body seemingly tasked with defending and promoting intellectual property.  The All Party-Parliamentary group on Intellectual Property is set to investigate, and are inviting submissions to six questions by 30 March.

It will be interesting to see their report, and how the Government will propose to change the law on copyright and intellectual property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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