UK Government Responds To The Hargreaves Report

Nora Sleeth is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The UK Government has expressed its agreement with the findings of an independent IP law report released in May 2011. The report, titled “Digital Opportunity: an Independent Review of IP and Growth”, was produced by a team led by Cardiff University Professor Ian Hargreaves.

The IPilogue has previously published a blog detailing the findings of the report, which can be accessed here. An action plan for implementing Hargreaves’ recommendations and for addressing online copyright infringement is described throughout the UK Government’s response.

The Government’s response to the Hargreaves report expresses its recognition of the importance of IP law to creating value in the economy. IP is characterized as being essential to economic growth and as a central factor is business developments. The Government’s action plan reflects this take on the importance of IP. The full response may be found here and is summarized below.

As emphasized by the report, IP is an important aspect of economic growth; however, current IP laws are interfering with growth and preventing the realization of numerous opportunities for the UK economy. The approach to IP law is rapidly becoming increasingly outdated and must change and adapt to reflect the current climate. In particular, controversies in the copyright industry illustrate the impact of technology on the implementation of current IP law. Copying and sharing works has been dramatically simplified resulting in increased opportunities for infringement.

The Government also stresses its agreement with the report’s finding that past IP law has been insufficiently supported by evidence. In order to address this issue, the Government intends to implement a research policy with an emphasis on transparency. Further, an evidence-based approach to the development of IP law will allow for greater international legitimacy and provide better grounds on which the UK may pursue its international interests.

A Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) was suggested in order to create a “more efficient marketplace” for the creative industries. This scheme would provide for a simplified means of identifying copyrighted works and their owners. The Government plans to work towards generating a DCE that achieves clarity with regard to ownership rights. In response to Hargreaves recommendations, the Government has responded by discussing steps that will make their vision of the DCE commercially attractive and, subsequently, successful. In order to achieve this goal, substantial amounts of material must be made available through the DCE, rights holders must be empowered to set prices, and the DCE must be an independent marketplace.

The trend of modernization is further reflected through other Government recommendations outlined in the response. For example, more efficient cross-boarder licensing is cited as being essential to unification of the European Union’s market of copyrighted works. Also, a well-organized searching system for the identification of orphan works, works that do not have a known creator, is to be established.

Other approaches outlined in the Government’s response reflect the need for flexibility and continuous awareness of technical and social developments. The Government will be moving toward wider copyright exceptions that will continue to provide incentives for creators but without overregulation. Proposals are to include private copying, non-commercial research, library archiving, and parody.

The response concludes with a discussion of the importance of education and effective enforcement. The necessity of continuous evidence-based analysis is emphasized as key to tackling IP crime and respecting rights owners in the future development of UK IP law.

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