A recent panel strongly recommended major reforms in UK’s archaic Copyright laws. The panel, which led by Prof. Ian Hargreaves, who is the Chair of Digital Economy at the Cardiff Business School, was commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron in November 2010. After 6 months of consultation with almost 300 organisations and individuals it produced a report more than 120 pages long that was released earlier in May 2011.
The panel set out to review how applicable the 300 year old laws are to today’s fast moving digital age. The clear answer was that they weren’t equipped to deal with modern copyright and patent issues and on the contrary stifled growth and innovation.
The report suggests that the global trade in IP licensing was well over £600bn or near 5 per cent of the world’s trading output. It further suggested that every year over last decade the UK businesses’ investment in intangible assets was at least £100bn more than in tangible assets. While this figure doesn’t quite paint an accurate picture it is still pretty significant since it is the IP regime in a country that drives investments and innovation, case and point the USA.
There were a number of key recommendations of giving the IP framework a radical overhaul not least in making it easier and simpler for SMEs to make protecting their works simpler and more affordable.
The report suggests that there are many laws that are anachronistic, such as it is illegal to copy a piece of work from one digital format such as the CD to another such as an MP3 player even if it were for personal use.
It points out to other out of date laws such as prohibition on licensing orphan works or morphed use of originals such as parodies.
The one possible game-changing proposition that Hargreaves proposes, much to the dismay of legal community, is the establishment of a one stop Digital Rights Exchange by 2012 that would make it much simpler and easier for firms to both license in or license out copyrighted content.
Despite a heavy focus on digital content the report is fairly light in its analysis of international trade. Much of the revenues that Intellectual Property brings to the nations coffers is due to its international exploitation. It makes several references to India and China but only in the context of protecting British IP by better enforcement. It does highlight the importance the British Government is putting on both India and China by announcing a position of a Patent Attaché’ for both of these markets.
Overall the report makes some timely and common-sensical suggestions. It gives further economic perspective by claiming that if its suggestions are adopted then there could be a net positive contribution to the GDP to the tune of 0.3 to 0.6 per cent.