U.K. Music Industry Calls Gov't Copyright Law Reform Plan 'Unrealistic,' 'Overstated'
U.K. Music Industry Calls Gov't Copyright Law Reform Plan 'Unrealistic,' 'Overstated'

U.K. music execs and rights holders have welcomed the findings of Professor Ian Hargreaves' "Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth" - an independent report on copyright law.

The review, which sought to examine whether the United Kingdom's intellectual property framework -- with some laws dating back three centuries -- is obsolete in the internet era, was commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron in November last year.

Despite industry fears that Hargreaves would recommend a relaxing of U.K. copyright legislation, the report is largely favorable to the music biz. Significantly, it rejects the introduction of U.S-style "Fair Use" provisions, which allows Internet operators to use small amounts of content without permission from rights holders. Google was one of the major digital companies pushing for copyright reform to be implemented in the United Kingdom.

"Professor Hargreaves has sensibly rejected Google's flawed case for a significant weakening of U.K. copyright," said Geoff Taylor, chief executive at U.K. labels trade body BPI.

"He has recognized that innovation and economic growth are best stimulated by licensing the [intellectual property] we create in the U.K., and that strong creative industries that succeed on a global stage are fundamental to recovery from recession," Taylor went on to say.

Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of umbrella trade group, U.K. Music, was also pleased with Hargreaves' verdict, stating that "it recognizes the vital role of intellectual property to this country's future economic growth."

"Clearly, copyright law is not confined by national boundaries, and many of today's recommendations are also the focus of European policy-makers," Sharkey continued. "We now look forward to engaging closely with government and trust they will support our musical talent at home, in Brussels and everywhere else in the world."

Among the ten recommendations contained in Hargreaves' report is the establishment of a cross-sectoral Digital Copyright Exchange, which will "make it easier for rights owners, small and large, to sell licenses in their work and for others to buy them," as well as make "market transactions faster, more automated and cheaper."

Other recommendations include: legislation to enable the licensing of orphan works, where the copyright holder cannot be traced; the U.K. to support moves by the European Commission to set up a framework for cross border copyright licensing, and governmental enforcement of IP rights "based upon enforcement, education and, crucially, measures to strengthen and grow legitimate markets in copyright and other IP protected fields."

Another key point in the report was Hargreaves assertion that private copying of CDs, DVDs or digital files should be legalized in the U.K. to reflect current consumer behavior.
"Copying should be lawful where it is for private purposes, or does not damage the underlying aims of copyright," stated the report, which concluded that the "U.K's current IP system is falling behind what is needed, especially in the area of copyright."

That opinion was echoed by Ben Drury, CEO of London-based download service 7digital, who commented, "Having outdated laws is a hindrance to companies that aim to develop new products and services for consumers of digital music and content, which in turn slows the adoption of digital and damages the music and content industries as a whole."

"7Digital believes that in the digital age removing barriers to licensing and increased transparency is critical to ensuring the U.K. can remain at the forefront of digital content creation," Drury went on to say.

The British government is due to announce its response to Hargreaves' review later this year.