Small companies put at the heart of IP revamp<br>

The UK’s recent failure to modernise its 300-year old copyright laws will cost the country an “increasing economic price,” as it moves into the third decade of the commercial internet.

Such is the warning from Professor Ian Hargreaves, whose six-month review into how the UK intellectual property system can boost growth and innovation concluded this week.

It found that copyright law cannot be considered “fit for purpose” when millions of Brits are in daily breach “simply for shifting a piece of music or video from one device to another.”

As a result, the review recommends, the UK should take-up certain copyright exceptions, including some already available under EU law, rather than adopt a US-style ‘fair use’ policy.

To provide creators and consumers with clarity on rights issues, particularly where technology creates uncertainty for the parties, the Intellectual Property Office will start to issue formal opinions.

The office should also draw up plans to make the IP system more accessible to smaller companies, notably high-tech start-ups and individuals in the creative industries.

Part of the IPO’s new role should extend to directing these traders to low-cost, one-stop-shop advisors, adds the review, where IP, legal and commercial aid is offered as a package.

Another boost for business will come from the Digital Copyright Exchange – an online shop, due to open in 2012, where licences for copyright content will be “readily bought and sold.”

Other recommendations by Prof Hargreaves include permitting the use of ‘orphan works,’ potentially valuable works prohibited from any use because the owner cannot be traced, which some photographers oppose.

He said: “The government’s IP policy decisions need to be more closely based on economic evidence, and should pay more attention to the impact on non-rights holders and consumers”.

If all 10 of the major recommendations on the UK’s copyright and IP systems are adopted by the government, the review estimates they could add up to £9.7billion to the economy.


20th May 2011

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