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Creative industries wary of new Government copyright reform

Business secretary Vince Cable has today announced new measures to make it easier for people to legally use copyrighted material; UK execs are wary.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable today announced changes to create greater freedom to use copyright works.

New measures include provisions to allow copying of works for individuals’ own personal use, parody and for the purposes of quotation.

In response to a consultation earlier this year, the changes will be in the following areas:

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;

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.

While millions of people will have already carried out some of the above acts without prosecution or fear of prosecution, many of those acts are still technically illegal.

Vince Cable said: “Making the intellectual property framework fit for the 21st century is not only common sense but good business sense. Bringing the law into line with ordinary people’s reasonable expectations will boost respect for copyright, on which our creative industries rely.

“We feel we have struck the right balance between improving the way consumers benefit from copyright works they have legitimately paid for, boosting business opportunities and protecting the rights of creators,” he continued.

The Government estimates that the changes could contribute at least £500m to the UK economy over 10 years, and perhaps more from “reduced costs, increased competition and by making copyright works more valuable”.

However, a number of executives representing the UK creative sectors have expressed concern about the reform.

Christine Payne, chair of the Creative Coalition Campaign and general secretary of Equity said: “A robust intellectual property system is vital to the continued creation of great films, music, books and TV productions here in the UK. The introduction of new copyright exceptions announced today, if too widely drawn, risk undermining the UK’s strong IP framework which is the catalyst for more than £36 billion worth of economic activity and supports 1.5 million jobs here in the UK. With the current state of the UK economy this is a risk we cannot afford to take.”

Bertrand Moullier, Independent Film & Television Alliance added: “Copyright is critical not only to large corporations but also to independent producers and distributors of great creative content. We must guard against undermining the creative economy when it comes to introducing a raft of exceptions to the copyright framework.  Genuine online entrepreneurs do not need exceptions to drive online innovation. We’ve currently got a robust intellectual property framework and if that’s compromised it means that future growth and jobs in the sector will be jeopardised.”

John McVay, chief executive of PACT Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television said: “The internet presents a huge opportunity for the content industry, which the creative sector is embracing wholeheartedly but like all content providers, we need the right regulatory framework in place to flourish and ensure that we can continue to grow in the future. The industry is developing innovative models for the delivery of content which work within the existing copyright framework.

“Any changes to copyright must be considered carefully to avoid adversely impacting on the development of these emerging legal content markets and thereby stymieing the entrepreneurialism, economic growth, social and commercial innovation which the Government is seeking to encourage”, he continued. “Worryingly, claims that today’s proposals will generate economic growth announced still don’t appear to be backed by robust evidence.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • There is this frustrating mentality where films are expected to be available for nothing on the grounds that it's education.

    I was recently approached to screen a film that I repped for an educational event - but their policy was that "we don't pay screening fees because it's education". When I asked the organisers if they was waiving their salaries for their time on the event, or if their publicity leaflets were designed and printed for free or if their website was being updated voluntarily etc etc. There was silence - of course they were all being paid normally.

    Why should filmmakers and the sales agents or distributors that represent them be the odd ones out and be expected to provide films for nothing? How exactly are filmmakers expected to support themselves?

    Furthermore what's the point in educating the next generation about films and media if the practice is to make it as difficult as possible to earn a living from the artform?

    John Flahive
    Wavelength Pictures

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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