Copyright Consultation divides industry

The government’s Copyright Consultation ended last week, prompting responses from all corners of industry, including Google, PRS for Music and the British Library.

The consultation, which aimed to explore the findings of last year’s Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property, invited both sides of the debate to issue statements on the review’s proposals, including a number of new copyright exceptions.

PRS for Music has openly supported some of Hargreaves’ proposals, such as enabling licensing solutions for orphan works, the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange, and voluntary codes of conduct for collecting societies, as well as a format-shifting exception to allow consumers to copy their legally bought music from CDs to PC and MP3 player.

In its submission to the Copyright Consultation it said: ‘PRS for Music welcomes the enabling provisions in the review in relation to licensing. Modernising licensing solutions will contribute to growth.

‘The proposals for new licensing solutions for orphan works and for codes of practice for collecting societies to set consistent and higher standards of transparency and accountability through a self regulatory system are welcome.

‘Licensing solutions offer a more flexible and adaptable route than widening or introducing exceptions to rights to ensure that creators get paid, businesses get certainty to use content and consumers get access to copyright works.’

However, the society rejected some of Hargreaves recommendations on new copyright exceptions, including the public performance of music at celebrations such as state occasions and council events, the private copying of music to ‘cloud lockers’, and music used in schools.

PRS for Music defended the current system adding that, while there is always room for improvement, the idea introduced in the Hargreaves Review – that copyright is killing innovation – just isn’t true.

It suggested that the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which has overseen the consultation process, has not adequately balanced the interests of the three parties involved – consumers, businesses and creators.

It said: ‘Our concern about the copyright consultation is that, although there are positive aspects, the impact of exceptions on licensing, affecting education to cloud lockers, and public performance of music will reduce licensing revenues for our constituency.

‘This will damage the incentive to create and the ability for publishers to invest in new works. The UK’s creative industries – a pre-eminent global success – will not be well served if all the recommendations go ahead.’

It added: ‘If the UK is serious about growth and attracting inward investment to the UK, and rights into a Digital Copyright Exchange, it should be serious about a copyright law that backs the creative industries and protects copyright licensing as the foundation for future economic success.’

Last week, UK Music said claims within the Hargreaves Review, which state that modernising copyright laws will add an annual £7.9bn to the UK economy, were wildly inaccurate and deeply flawed.

And, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, organisations such as PPL and PRS for Music, came together, saying the new copyright proposals ‘fail to capitalise on the real opportunities and potentially strike a severe blow to creators – the very group that is going to generate new ideas, new content and new growth’.

Meanwhile, Google was among those to put their name to a letter in The Times newspaper, urging the government to make Hargreaves’ recommendations law, especially those on private copying and other areas of so called ‘fair dealing’.

The letter, signed by Dan Cobley, Google UK Marketing Director, British Library Chief Executive Lynne Brindley and comedy writer Graham Linehan among others, said that the current copyright system is ‘flawed’ and ‘limits growth, puts our cultural heritage at risk, holds back scientific discovery, and stifles our country’s great comedic tradition of parody’.

The government must now respond to these statements and decide if or how it should change copyright legislation.

In the latest issue of M magazine, Jo Dipple, Chief Executive of UK Music, explains her stance on the Copyright Consultation, urging the government to encourage the creative and digital industries to work together, not against each other. Read more.