UK: Consulting on the Future of Copyright in the Digital Age

Ensuring the UK's copyright laws are fit for the digital age is the focus of a consultation launched on  8 January by Lord Triesman, Minister for Intellectual Property.

Proposals include greater freedom for consumers to legally transfer music or films between, for example, CDs and an MP3 player – so-called 'format-shifting'. Other proposals include changes to enable schools and universities to make the most of digital technologies and facilitate distance learning.

The consultation follows the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property which recommended that aspects of the intellectual property system should be reformed. The Government has committed to consulting widely on the recommendations to ensure the UK's copyright laws remains globally competitive in a rapidly changing, digital world.

Lord Triesman said:

"Copyright law affects our every day lives whether through the music we listen to, the films we watch and the books we read. It underpins the success of a variety of culturally important and economically successful sectors of UK industry such as music, film, computer games and sport."

"In an increasingly digital world, we need to be sure that our copyright system keeps up with the times and works effectively."

"This consultation is part of a package of measures which is designed to do just that. It explores where the boundaries lie between strong protection for right holders and appropriate levels of access for users. A system valued by right holders and respected by users is critical to the success of UK creativity."

The recommendations considered in this consultation paper include changes to copyright law that will:

enable schools and universities to make the most of digital technologies and facilitate distance learning;

allow libraries and archives to use technology to preserve valuable material before it deteriorates or the format it is stored on becomes obsolete;

introduce a format shifting exception to allow consumers to copy legitimately purchased content to another format, for example CD to MP3, in a manner that does not damage the interests of copyright owners; and
provide a new exception for parody.

Expanding exceptions for educational use would reflect the greater use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom and facilitate distance and online learning by enabling extracts from books, plays and copies of broadcasts to be distributed digitally.

Changes for libraries would allow the copying of sound recordings, films and broadcasts for preservation purposes and to format shift works stored on obsolete or unstable media.

UK-IPO chief executive Ian Fletcher said:

"We should not underestimate the importance of making sure that we draw the line between access and protection in the right place. I appreciate that there will be a range of views as to where that line should be but I would urge all those with an interest to make sure their voice is heard."