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Cable to back Hargreaves’ key findings

By | Published on Wednesday 18 May 2011

Houses Of Parliament

Business Secretary Vince Cable will today give his formal support to the Hargreaves Review, which presumably means his Tory colleagues on the cabinet all plan to shred the copyright-reinventing report as soon as it lands on their desks and never talk of it ever again.

As previously reported, Professor Ian Hargreaves’ review of intellectual property law is out today (actually, it’s already out, more on what is inside and how people are responding tomorrow), and while it’s generally more friendly to traditional copyright owners than many initially feared, it still proposes a number of reforms, including the introduction of parody and private copy rights, and the creation of a central agency that will simplify the licensing process.

The report says that such an agency would also overcome the issue of orphan works, where commercial organisations choose not to make archive content available because one or more stakeholders are unknown, and they fear publication could result in a future copyright claim.

However, Hargreaves will not go as far as some expected him to with his proposals for reform. For example, it is thought he will not recommend safe harbour provisions such as those found in America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which specifically protect internet service providers and web firms like Google from liability for copyright infringement committed by their customers.

According to The Guardian, Cable will tell an event organised by the Alliance Against IP Theft later today that he agrees with Hargreaves’ principle conclusion (and starting point, really): that the current copyright system has failed to “keep pace” with the fast moving digital economy, and that as a result it is too often an “obstacle” to research and innovation, and that it “impinges” on the day-to-day lives of too many consumers.

It remains to be seen how much of the Hargreaves Review becomes law, and how quickly. Some of the key recommendations of the 2006 Gowers Review of copyright have still not been implemented, and some key IP elements of the 2009 Digital Britain report were completely contradicted in the subsequent Digital Economy Act.