The Intellectual Property Office's Consulation on proposed changes to UK copyright law following the Hargreaves Review has just closed. My friends at the Publishers Content Forum have put in a very succinct submission which gives the publishers' perspective. It captures the key issues really well.
Copyright and licensing are absolutely central to the creative industries' ability to develop viable digital content businesses for the benefit of consumers, creators and everyone else who add's value in the 'content chain'. Sure, some changes to the copyright system are needed, as indicated below. But we must take great care not to kill the patient with the 'cure'.
So wit the PCF's permission, here is their submission:
We are encouraged that the minister responsible for Intellectual Property, Baroness Wilcox, recognises in the foreword to the Consultation paper that “copyright is the central IP right relied on by the UK’s strong creative industries”. The Minister is right. However, her laudable sentiments are not matched by the tone and much of the content of the remainder of the Consultation paper and accompanying impact assessments.
Copyright does not need to be weakened
Time after time copyright is portrayed in the Consultation paper as a ‘regulation’ or a ‘cost’ that should be removed to stimulate growth. This gives the impression that the Government has been unduly influenced by the opinions of US technology companies who repeatedly argue that copyright is a problem. Hargreaves warned about the danger of ‘lobbynomics’ and yet it appears that the Government has fallen foul of it.
Copyright is a fundamental right that provides rewards and incentives for creators as well as a legal framework to support the UK’s creative industries. Weakening copyright puts those industries at risk. They employ 1.5 million people and represent 3 % of the economy in terms of gross value added. The Government should not be gambling with such an asset.
Publishing businesses are Digital businesses
The preoccupation throughout the Consultation paper with introducing exceptions in order to support new technology and digital businesses ignores the fact that the UK’s publishers are themselves vibrant digital business that use technology to improve access to content and rely on strong copyright. By choosing to weaken copyright the Government would not be assisting new digital businesses – it would be strengthening parasitical business models over creative ones. This would be a strategic error.
Evidence based policy making – where is it?
Ian Hargreaves quite rightly said that IP policy should be guided by solid evidence. An inspection of the Consultation paper and impact assessment reveals that the Government has not implemented this suggestion. We are genuinely shocked by the extent to which policy is being based on anecdotes, claims and complaints rather than well rounded evidence and monetised costs and benefits. We understand there will be another round of impact assessments and trust that these will be of a much higher standard. Decisions regarding policy should only take place once further impact assessments have been published, taking account of all available evidence, and subject to further consultation.
Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE)
Although not part of this Consultation we would like to say briefly that we are pleased that the Government is looking at the feasibility of establishing a DCE and has engaged Richard Hooper. The DCE was the single most important recommendation by Ian Hargreaves, as the Consultation paper notes, and we urge the Government to collaborate with publishers to make it work. The DCE has the potential to simplify significantly the process of licensing copyright works in the digital age in way that would not damage the UK’s vibrant creative industries.
On the specific proposals we would make the following comments:
We support efforts to reform UK copyright law with regards to orphan works, providing they are properly and narrowly defined.
Text and Data Mining
Given the embryonic nature of the market for data text mining we are not convinced there is a case for an exception, and we note that the STM Association has produced a model licence to simplify the contracting process.
We do not support the introduction of a Fair Dealing exception for educational establishments, as this would replace the clarity of licences with the confusion of a Fair Dealing exception. There is no case for removing or restricting existing collective licensing schemes. They are highly successful and comprehensive and serve educational establishments well.
We are opposed to the widening of this exception to include more uses such as ‘information’ and ‘analysis.’ The danger of unintended consequences is considerable."