Key Points: UK IP Review Proposes Legal Format-Shifting And More

The UK government has proposed allowing owners of media content to copy it for their own use, among a range of measures to reform intellectual property law for the digital age.

    The government is pledging to act on all 10 recommendations of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, which it had commissioned.

    But, Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills says: “Ofcom was also asked to consider whether the site-blocking provisions in the Digital Economy Act would work in practice. The Act contains reserve powers to allow courts to order that websites dedicated to copyright infringement are blocked. The regulator concluded the provisions as they stand would not be effective and so the Government will not bring forward the Act’s site-blocking provisions at this time.”

    Here are the recommendations on Hargreaves’ review…

    • Commitment to make decisions on IP law only on the basis of good evidence.
    • Pursue international abuse of UK IP, including establishing a European patent court as an “immediate priority” and supporting the EC’s proposed cross-border licensing framework.
    • Help create a Digital Copyright Exchange to help companies license digital content from each other.
    • Allow commercial and cultural re-use of orphan works, only after a diligent search for works’ owners.
    • Proposal for more collective licensing.
    • Allow limited private copying by consumers of content they own. Also allow text and data mining for non-commercial research, allow library archiving and copying for parody.
    • Future-proof the regime by building greater adaptability to new technologies in the EU-level copyright law. Also “make the removal of EU-level barriers to innovative and valuable technologies a priority to be pursued through all appropriate mechanisms”.
    • Disallow extension of anti-competitive patents in to new areas “unless there is clear evidence of a benefit to innovation and growth”.
    • Asking Ofcom to establish piracy benchmarks “as soon as possible”.
    • ISPs no longer have to pay Ofcom costs for enacting measures in Digital Economy Act.
    • Allow smaller firms to pursue copyright infringement more cost-effectively by hearing claims lower than £5,000 in the Patent County Court.

    On private copying – or, “format-shifting” – the government says: “A widespread flouting of copyright through private copying in particular brings the law into disrepute: it is not appropriate simply to tolerate unlawful private copying where it is not commercially damaging.” It says copyright owners deserve “zero” compensation for this and the government is refusing to introduce a copyright levy system, which the majority of European countries levy against gadgets that can make copies, leading to higher hardware prices.

    All of this may sound familiar to anyone who remembers when the previous government in 2008 committed to legalise format-shifting, per a recommendation of the 2006 Gowers IP review. during the hurried passage of the Digital Economy Bill last year, it confirmed it would not.

    Alongside its central strategy, the current government has published…

    • an IP Crime Strategy in which the Information Commissioners Office commits to develop “an action plan on tackling counterfeiting and criminal piracy online”
    • an International Strategy to try creating international consensus for its aims within five years