Groups call for copyright overhaul in UK

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A range of consumer, library and digital content groups are calling for reforms of the UK’s copyright law to be speeded up. The call comes after the latest survey by Consumers International puts the UK significantly behind other developed nations on copyright issues. 

For the fourth successive year the UK has been in the bottom three nations in the IP Watchlist survey, which looks at how copyright laws in 30 countries balance the interests of copyright owners with those of consumers.

The groups calling for the reforms - Consumer Focus, The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), the Open Rights Group, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) - say that UK copyright law must be updated to be fair for consumers and to drive vital economic growth. They believe that all of the recommendations from the recent Hargreaves Review should be implemented without delay.

According to the IP Watchlist 2012 survey, the UK was ranked third from the bottom. Overall Consumers International gave the UK a C- rating and only Jordan and Argentina fared worse. Israel was ranked highest followed by Indonesia, India, New Zealand and the USA. In 2009 the UK was placed last and was third from the bottom in both 2010 and 2011, according to the survey.

The groups say that failure to implement Professor Hargreaves' recommendations to modernise the UK’s outdated copyright exceptions would be unfair to consumers, hinder economic growth, and put the preservation of and access to our cultural heritage at risk. They note that the most glaring example is the lack of a private copying exception for products consumers have already paid for. The UK’s current copyright regime does not reflect the way consumers use music, films and e-books today.

‘The UK needs to become a world leader in research and information provision. This can only be done if researchers, librarians and information professionals are able to fully utilise the range of materials held in archives and libraries. There is an ever growing richness of research material available in audio and video; it is ridiculous that they cannot be copied in the same way that print materials can. Government should update the existing libraries exception as a matter of urgency, so that libraries can help our researchers access the UK’s full cultural heritage,’ commented John Dolan, chair of CILIP Council.