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Government Announces ‘Common Sense’ Copyright Law Reform

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BIS tells TechWeek Vince Cable’s reforms should be law by end of 2013 at the latest

The government has announced a raft of changes to copyright law in the UK, designed to bring the UK up to speed with the public’s expectations.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) took on board the suggestions of the Hargreaves Proposal, which declared last year copyright law should be reformed to encourage innovation and economic growth.

Business secretary Vince Cable  said the changes would bring copyright law in line with “ordinary people’s reasonable expectations”. The proposed laws will see copying of digital content they have bought allowed as long as people are doing so for personal use.

Copyright law changes coming

The government also wants to simplify copyright licensing for the education sector, so teachers can easily use copyright materials on computers, tablets or other devices being used in the classroom.

It is also seeking to allow “limited copying on a fair dealing basis” so parodies would not face legal action.

Sound recordings, films and broadcasts would also be open for copying  for non-commercial research and private study purposes, without the need to gain permission.

“We feel we have struck the right balance between improving the way consumers benefit from copyright works they have legitimately paid for, boosting business opportunities and protecting the rights of creators,” Cable added.

BIS told TechWeekEurope the hope is to have the proposals enshrined in British law at some point in 2013. It will be brought in as secondary law, meaning existing legislation is being tinkered with, so no new bill has to be drawn up. The proposals will only have to go through Parliament – not both houses.

The department claimed the changes could contribute at least £500m to the UK economy over 10 years.

A “non-statutory system for clarifying areas where there is confusion or misunderstanding on the scope and application of copyright law” will also be set up.

“These reforms promote more freedoms to use copyrighted works in reasonable ways. This is common sense reform for the digital age. The plans will allow more useful activities like format shifting, parody and text mining without hurting creators,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

“Copyright needs to be fair and flexible in order to promote support creators, encourage innovation and promote free speech.”

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