Sunday, 22 January 2012

Copyright law - an update

Anyone who reads CILIP Update magazine will have seen the recent items regarding the proposed modernisation/revamping of the copyright system in Britain. This is of particular interest to me, not only from a librarian's point of view, but also because some of the fee-earners for whom I work are closely monitoring the developments also because of their practice area.

There appear to be some very mixed reactions to some of the proposals. For those of you who don't know the background, a review was carried out last summer by Professor Ian Hargreaves as to how copyright law can be updated to better serve what is now referred to as the 'digital' economy. One example is that at the moment, turning a CD of music into an MP3 file is illegal! But how many times have we all done this - almost everyone who owns an ipod or iphone or other music player will have done so! This is a clear example of where copyright law is completely out of date. Hargreaves suggested that the harm done to rightsowners is minimal and the law should be updated accordingly.

Another issue of debate is that the review proposed that 'data mining' rules should be relaxed and allow for non-commercial researchers to be able to access all data. The reason given is that it will promote innovation in Britain - but many publishers feel that they will lose out in terms of copyright and licensing fees that they are currently allowed to charge for such access to the data contained in their journals, for example.

Hargreaves has also called for the setting up of an agency which will make it easier to obtain permission to use copyrighted works. This is known as the Digital Copyright Exchange. A feasibility study is currently being set up by Richard Hooper to consider what options are available for implementation. The plan is that the study will recommend a solution by 2012 summer parliament recess. A consultation is open until 10 Feb 2012 on the matter.

There is no doubt that the implications of the copyright review are significant for librarians as much as lawyers who work in the field of intellectual property, because dealing with photocopying restrictions and other digital  content licensing restrictions are a substantial part of what we do. It is really helpful to keep on top of the latest developments via CILIP's magazine updates, and it shall be interesting to see how things change over the next 12 months.

Image: Stuart Miles /

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