Silicon Roundabout Asks For Copyright Overhaul

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British tech firms have urged the Coalition government to change copyright law

The UK’s equivalent of Silicon Valley has called on the government to overhaul the UK’s outdated copyright laws.

The call was made in an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron and the Coalition Government. The British firms urged the government to implement the IP law reforms recommended in the report compiled by Professor Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University, which was released in April this year.

In that report, Professor Hargreaves offered ten recommendations on how to bring the UK’s outdated laws in line with today’s digital era. He stated that if his conclusions were introduced it could add up to £7.9 billion to the UK’s economy and cut the cost of IP-related business by £750 million within a decade.

Open Letter

His recommendations were strongly backed by a number of tech residents of the London ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in their open letter. The group includes the likes of the British Computing Society (BCS), Coadec (The Coalition for a Digital Economy), TechHub, Bootlaw and the BIMA.

The group says that while it is pleased with the Government’s voicing of support for the ‘digital economy,’ they are concerned that for all its talk, the Government isn’t acting enough on behalf of the technology companies in the UK.

“Innovation and commercialisation by digital businesses is a key component of Britain’s economy and will play an ever-more important role in years to come. In the interest of ensuring that Britain has a dynamic, world-leading digital economy, it is essential that the government heed the Hargreaves report closely and implement its recommendations thoroughly,” the letter states.

“We have been delighted by the consistent rhetoric of this Government highlighting how crucial Britain’s digital economy is to the country’s future, and we agree wholeheartedly that the sector must play a vital role in supporting the country’s recovery,” said the letter. “It is now time for the Government’s fine words to be put into meaningful action if the sector is to flourish and play its role in helping to drive economic growth in the United Kingdom.”

2012 Deadline

The group called on the Government to implement the changes to the law recommended by Prof Hargreaves by the end of the year, preferably, or by the end of the current parliamentary session at the latest.

Among the recommendations Professor Hargreaves suggested is the establishment of a “digital copyright exchange,” where licences in copyright content can be bought and sold. This will make market transactions “faster, more automated and cheaper,” and should make it easier to resolve disputes without costly litigation.

The signatories of the letter urged the government to adopt the following:

  • Adopting exceptions to copyright for format-shifting, parody, non-commercial research and library archiving.
  • Prohibiting copyright exceptions from being overridden by contract
  • Enabling licensing of orphan works
  • Giving the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) the power to issue statutory opinions to help clarify copyright law and take other measures to help ensure that Britain’s IP system remains focused on promoting innovation and growth
  • Causing the IPO to improve the accessibility of the IP system to smaller companies – promoting at EU level copyright exceptions for text and data analytics
  • Promoting the inclusion in the EU framework of a mechanism for adapting copyright exceptions to new technologies as they arise
  • Supporting moves by the European Commission for establishing a cross-border copyright licensing framework
  • Facilitating the creation of a comprehensive Digital Copyright Exchange through which works can be licensed in a transparent and simple manner

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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