UK hopes intellectual property reforms will promote growth

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The UK Government has announced plans to support economic growth by modernising the country’s intellectual property laws. Ministers have accepted the recommendations made in May 2011 by Ian Hargreaves in an independent review.

According to business secretary Vince Cable, ‘By creating a more open intellectual property system it will allow innovative businesses to develop new products and services which will be able to compete fairly in the UK’s thriving markets for consumer equipment.’Among the recommendations that have been accepted are that the UK should have a Digital Copyright Exchange. This is a digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold. A feasibility study will now begin to establish how such an exchange will look and work. The Government will announce arrangements for how this work will be driven forward later in the year.

In addition, copyright exceptions covering limited private copying should be introduced to realise growth opportunities. Copyright exceptions to allow parody should also be introduced to benefit UK production companies and make it legal for performing artists, such as comedians, to parody someone else’s work without seeking permission from the copyright holder. There will also be the introduction of an exception to copyright for text and data mining. Currently this is illegal under copyright law without permission of copyright owners. The Wellcome Trust has said that 87 per cent of the material housed in the UK’s main medical research database is unavailable for legal text and data mining.

Another recommendation being accepted is establishing licensing and clearance procedures for orphan works (material with unknown copyright owners). This would open up a range of works that are currently locked away in libraries and museums and unavailable for consumer or research purposes.