Copyright reforms cast creatives as the winners

Freelancers and their clients are among the likely beneficiaries of an official move to offer licences to copy a creative work for which the right holder(s) cannot be found.

Thanks to the move, the public domain is set to receive a reported 91million creative works like photos, films and documents, which have so far been hidden as the rights holders cannot be traced.

On offer from the Intellectual Property Office, licences will be granted so that such culturally–rich works can be reproduced both offline (in books and on TV) and online.

According to the IPO, such an ‘orphan works’ licence will apply only for use in the UK, but it can be for commercial or non-commercial use and is non-exclusive (meaning it will not be restricted to a single licensee).

The scheme, brought about from a relaxation in copyright law, follows the taking effect last month of a package of new measures designed to modernise intellectual property laws and practices.

Estimated to inject about £500m into the economy over the next 10 years, the measures were hailed by the government as making IP law fit for the 21st century, much to the relief of designers and patent holders.

For example, consumers now have the freedom to make personal copies of CDs they purchase (on condition the copies are only for private use), whereas before it was still illegal to copy tracks to an MP3 player.

The package of measures also includes a new exception to copyright for parody caricature and pastiche, and includes improvements to rules on how quotations can be used.

According to officials at the IPO, these changes will allow the limited use of copyright material without the permission of the copyright holder, but only to the extent that the use is “fair and proportionate.”

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for IP, said of the package: “These changes…will mean that the UK IP regime will now be responsive to the modern business environment and more flexible for consumers.

“Not only will these new measures provide a significant boost to the UK’s creative industries, they will also better protect a number of sectors including the protection of the UK’s design industry, worth more than £15 billion to the economy.”

Other key intellectual property reforms that came into force on October 1st include:

  • the Intellectual Property Act 2014. The act will help simplify and strengthen protection for the UK designs industry, and help improve the efficiency of the IP rights system
  • the creation of a criminal offence for intentional copying of a registered design
  • providing new protections for pre-publication research to ensure the UK’s universities and the research sector remains a world-leader
  • webmarking to display your patent rights, allowing a company to put a web address rather than more detailed information about the patent status of a product
  • the expansion of the patent opinions service, providing quick and affordable opinions on a wider range of patent disputes
  • the promotion of international ‘patent work sharing’ to cut backlogs.

Editor's Note: Further Reading -

The freelancer's guide to intellectual property - part 2

Freelancers' Questions: What if a client objects to my copyright clause?

Freelancers' Questions: Am I breaching Getty's copyright?



3rd November 2014

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