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Next Steps for Copyright Policy

BPS CopyrightUK and European Reform - 19th June 2014.

The current EU review of Copyright law could be a force for good by fine tuning and improving a well proven and successful IP law system, as witnessed in the United Kingdom by a burgeoning creative industries ranging from film, TV, music to design and innovation. Alternatively, the review could lead to eventual legislative changes that undermine a successful system with the consequence that investors no longer see the creative industries as a safe vehicle into which to invest as no guarantee of maximising IP rights; whilst writers, directors and musicians amongst many struggle to earn a living from their efforts and talents.

It is still frontier country in the Digital Age in terms of protecting IP rights, ensuring universal rules and and enforceability; the Internet is no respecter of individual legal jurisdictions.

The general consensus of many of the speakers at the Forum was that the current system works well and does not need change for changes sake. Nick Munn of the Intellectual Property Office indicated that any changes to copyright law would have to be for the benefit of helping economic growth.

Certain changes are being implemented to help copyright material get to the market in circumstances where it would not normally be the case; the changes arising from UK legislation, and parallel EU law too in respect of orphan works is one good example. Steps to help stream line the collection of royalties is another example through the Collecting Rights Directive shows an attempt to refine the system.

IP rights can be seen as the glass half empty or half full. To some it is vital that there is a rigourous set of IP laws, and enforcement too, to protect someone’s creative work both in monetary terms- but also in artistic terms too. However, there is another camp who regard that over tight IP laws, including copyright, as anti competitive, makes use of material too expensive and is a constraint against new entrants to the market. This is a quazi economic philosophical argument, but one that exists. Certainly, in the world of patent law and in the context of developing countries there is a view that patents are used excessively to restrict supply, push up prices and stifle innovation by new players in the market.

So far as copyright is concerned, like any legal principle, it should have flexible walls to address unique situations, changing markets and to keep pace with technology.

However, whilst a watching brief is required and where genuine improvements can be made then this should be encouraged. The work on the Copyright Hub will help encourage ease of licensing, greater transparency, saving of time and hopefully fair and proportionate licensing fees linked to fair use.

However, this must be balanced against remembering that investors will only invest in creative projects if they can have tangible assets or rights that are afforded protection.

Sensible. practical reform and modification is welcome; evolution rather than revolution.

However, an important message to all legislators please do not think that a philosophy that may work for one type of intellectual property right will not necessarily apply for another type of IP law. Tesla, The US manufacturer of sophisticated upmarket electric cars has said that it will share its patents with other manufacturers in a bid to increase the electric car market share and drive the creation of more recharging points so electric cars become more popular with motorists. This is a good example of market needs and to help grow a market through some relaxation on IP rights. However, would such a philosophy work in respect of a low budget film with a low profit margin? An issue of horses for courses..

(c) Julian Wilkins July 2014

Julian Wilkins

Julian Wilkins is Editorial Director for Blue Pencil Media Limited. Julian has a LLB (Hons) in law and M.Phil in law as well as a Diploma in European law and was admitted as a solicitor in 1988; he practices in the area of media, entertainment, and intellectual property law as a consultant for Devereaux Solicitors in London. Julian is also a Notary Public and CEDR accredited commercial mediator. Julian has written for academic publications and contributed to an Exhibition Catalogue about 1960s photographer Philip Townsend. Julian is a member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers and also the British Institute of International and Comparative law. Julian is a finalist in The Media Lunch Club “Short Circuit” script competition to be held in November 2011. Julian’s comments “The rapidly changing world economy and technology is presenting incredible opportunities for the Creative Industries and Blue Pencil hopes to reflect and contribute to these changes.”

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