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Hargreaves to propose parody and private copy right

By | Published on Tuesday 17 May 2011

Ian Hargreaves

The Hargreaves Review of intellectual property law is expected to report tomorrow, and word has it the final text will be more friendly towards the traditional content industries than some in those sectors originally feared, though there will be a number of proposals to expand the rights of non-commercial users, and to make things easier for those wanting to use copyright material for commercial purposes.

According to The Guardian, among the proposals regarding fair dealing – ie that part of copyright law that enables some users to circumvent conventional copyright rules in some circumstances – will be the introduction of a right to parody copyright material without the rights-owner’s permission, and the introduction of a private copy right, something which already exists in most other territories.

The parody right is something Google, which had a role in instigating this review, is known to want expanded in all copyright jurisdictions, so that when punters post piss-take videos of films or pop-promos, the owners of the originals can’t order the video-sharing site to take them down.

The parody right would have prevented the songwriters of ‘New York State Of Mind’ from having the ‘Newport State Of Mind’ spoof removed from YouTube, and would mean the makers of the ‘Downfall’ film couldn’t stop parodies of its famous bunker scene being posted to the video site.

Hargreaves is expected to also say that the new fair-dealing right would allow writers and comedians operating on more traditional media platforms to be more creative in creating parodies without the fear of being accused of copyright infringement.

The need for a private copy right in the UK was included in the Gowers Review of IP law back in 2006, but has never made it to the statute book. This would allow consumers to make back-up copies of tracks they have legitimately bought on CD to their PC, MP3 player or another CDR, something everyone does but which, in the UK, technically infringes copyright.

In some territories the music business has traditionally received a levy in return for the private copy right – added to devices on which private copies can be made – though Hargreaves is expected to propose the new right be introduced without charging any such levy.

The lack of a private copy right in the UK is interesting in the context of digital lockers, because it means that even the most basic online storage services – which even the US record industry would have to accept can operate without a copyright licence – would technically infringe copyright in this country. Introducing the private copy right would therefore open the doors for at least some basic digital locker services in the UK.

Hargreaves’ other grand plan is likely to be the launch of a uber-rights agency run by the content industries that can help those wanting to licence music, film or other multi-media content to find and deal with rights owners. The review is likely to say the creation of such an agency would make the UK “the best place in the world to do business in digital content”. It is a great idea, though could be a logistical nightmare to get up and running.

More on Hargreaves later this week, I’m sure.