Report suggests changes to ‘archaic’ copyright laws

Intellectual property and copyright laws need overhauling because they “obstruct innovation and economic growth in the UK”, according to a report by Professor Ian Hargreaves.

Having studied the issues for five months, he believes businesses seeking success in areas such as the internet are being restricted by laws that were made “more than three centuries ago”.

Copyright law is particularly archaic because it is no longer “the exclusive concern of authors and their publishers”.

He said: “The UK cannot afford to let a legal framework designed around artists impede vigorous participation in these emerging business sectors,” he said. “This does not mean, however, that we must put our hugely important creative industries at risk.”

He is proposing the formation of a Digital Copyright Exchange to act as a “one-stop shop”, which would make it easier to acquire clearance for the use of copyrighted content.

“This will make it easier for rights owners, small and large, to sell licences for their work and for others to buy them,” the report said. “It will make market transactions faster, more automated and cheaper.”

It would also resolve disputes regarding “orphan works”, where copyright owners cannot be traced – currently a “vast treasure trove” of work that is “effectively unavailable” for use.

Hargreaves reckons his recommendations, if implemented, could add between 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent GDP growth annually. Other suggestions include:

  • scrapping the “format shifting” law that makes it illegal to copy CD files on to an MP3 player
  • relaxing intellectual property laws for the benefit of parody
  • allowing the UK’s “great libraries” to archive all digital copyright material
  • keeping more reliable data about scale and trends, such as more accurate tracking of illegal downloading

(Source: MediaGuardian)

Image taken by Flickr user LaMenta3, licensed under Creative Commons

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