Friday, 16 December 2011

Copyright consultation rumbles on

The next stage of the UK government's copyright consultation is now under way. This follows on from the Hargreaves report and picks up several specific points on which comments are requested via a web page at the Intellectual Property Office.

It's a complex set of proposals and I've only just started to look through it but things I note initially are:

Copyright exception for archiving and preservation
Current law allows limited copying for preservation but this, surprisingly, does not extend to sound recordings, films, broadcasts, or artistic works. The irony here is that material which has most difficulty surviving in a digital age is excluded. The proposal is to extend the exception (to more kinds of work and to allow more copies) and to allow more kinds of institution to do the copying. The consultation refers to 'such as museums and galleries' in this context so we might assume any other kind of organisation or even an individual who feels the need to copy to preserve an artefact they possess would be excluded. Would a music company, for example, be allowed to copy masters to preserve them ... assuming their contractual arrangements did not already allow this. There is also an assumption that this exception would not apply to anything that was otherwise available to be bought.

Exception for use of quotations or extracts of copyright works
This, like other proposals in this consultation, intends to bring UK law into line with a wider European legal framework and, at present, UK law only allows use of extracts for the purpose of criticism, review or reporting current events. I assume that use of an insubstantial portion of a work under fair dealing fails because things worth quoting in this way are probably not insubstantial.

Exception for copying of works for use by text and data analytics
This is the so-called Data Mining exception. The proposal here clarifies the question (for me at least) significantly and applies to cases where you already have legal access to material (by subscription for example) but could make further use of it by copying into a database and running analyses.

Protecting copyright exceptions from override by contract
Primarily this seeks to level the playing field for organisation such as libraries who currently have to either take note of restrictions on individual sources of material or adopt a worse case approach. In the light of the data mining exception above, such protection seems to me to be essential.

Copyright Notices
As Hargeaves suggested, the plan here is for the Intellectual Property Office to produce legally-binding opinions on rights questions, called Notices. There would also be 'a duty on the Courts to have regard to any Notices published'. This is designed to help businesses. While I really welcome this I don't think it goes far enough and a more general set of such notices, forming a kind of copyright Highway Code, should serve the public as well as those small businesses who feel restricted by the cost of legal opinions.

Orphan Works
Yes, TwistCo reares its ugly head once more. In fact, the analysis in the Intellectual Property Office document here seems well-considered. It does however hedge the qualms of the photographic community, of 'active orphaning' by stripping metadata, more than somewhat. Given Hargreaves side-stepped moral rights altogether I am of the opinion that the link between moral rights (particularly attribution) and orphans needs a lot more thought. I also note that the wish of the photographers for any use of orphans to be non-commercial has been ignored.

All the sections (and more) are linked from the main page I linked above.

And that's all from us for 2011. Elaine and I wish you a happy and restful seasonal break and a successful 2012.

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