U.K. Poised to Relax Copyright Laws

The United Kingdom is poised to relax many of its copyright laws, which have been criticized as “archaic.” The changes will impact a number of mediums, including computer games, paintings, photographs, films, books, and music.

The latest proposals, set forth in a report entitled “Modernising Copyright,” were prepared in response to the Hargreaves Review of IP and Growth, commissioned by the Prime Minister and published in May 2011. In the report, Professor Ian Hargreaves concluded that “The UK’s current system is falling behind what is needed, especially in the area of copyright.” He recommended that the UK needed “an approach to exceptions to copyright which encourages successful new digital technology businesses both within and beyond the creative industries.”

After consulting with a number of stakeholders in the intellectual property community, the U.K. government agrees. “Bringing the law into line with ordinary people’s reasonable expectations will boost respect for copyright, on which our creative industries rely,” said Business Secretary, Vince Cable. “Making the intellectual property framework fit for the 21st century is not only common sense but good business sense.”

Below is a brief summary of several proposed changes:

  • Private copying – to permit people to copy digital content they have bought onto any medium or device that they own, but strictly for their own personal use such as transferring their music collection or eBooks to their tablet, phone or to a private cloud;
  • Education – to simplify copyright licensing for the education sector and make it easier for teachers to use copyright materials on interactive whiteboards and similar technology in classrooms and provide access to copyright works over secure networks to support the growing demand for distance learning handouts for students;
  • Quotation and news reporting – to create a more general permission for quotation of copyright works for any purpose, as long as the use of a particular quotation is “fair dealing” and its source is acknowledged;
  • Parody, caricature and pastiche – to allow limited copying on a fair dealing basis which would allow genuine parody, but prohibit copying disguised as parody; and
  • Research and private study – to allow sound recordings, films and broadcasts to be copied for non-commercial research and private study purposes without permission from the copyright holder. This includes both user copying and library copying;
  • Data analytics for non-commercial research – to allow non-commercial researchers to use computers to study published research results and other data without copyright law interfering;
  • Access for people with disabilities – to allow people with disabilities the right to obtain copyright works in accessible formats where a suitable one is not already on the market;
  • Archiving and preservation – to allow museums, galleries, libraries and archives to preserve any type of copyright work that is in their permanent collection which cannot readily be replaced; and
  • Public administration – to widen existing exceptions to enable more public bodies to share proactively third party information online, which would reflect the existing position in relation to the use of paper copies.
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