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Intellectual Property Office publishes first amendments to expand fair dealing in UK copyright law

By | Published on Monday 10 June 2013

Intellectual Property Office

The Intellectual Property Office has published the wording of several proposed amendments to the UK’s Copyright Act, stemming from the much previously reported Hargreaves Review of copyright law in 2011 and previously promised in the IPO’s own ‘Modernising Copyright’ report last December.

As previously reported, at the heart of Hargreaves’ recommendations was the expansion of the so called ‘fair dealing’ system, English law’s equivalent of ‘fair use’, which provides exemptions where copies can be made of copyright works without the permission of the owner.

As I’m about to quote directly from the IPO’s draft amendments, the ‘new exception for quotation’ provision definitely interests me, though for the music industry the private copying and parody exemptions will be of most interest.

The private copying exemption allows users to make copies of, say, music files they have legitimately bought (and have permanent ownership of) for personal use. The private copy right already exists in most other jurisdictions, and the UK music industry doesn’t, in principle, object to it.

However, elsewhere in Europe a levy is charged to the makers of devices onto which copies can be made (traditionally cassettes and CDRs, though more recently MP3 players and similar devices) which is passed back to the music community. Hargreaves, and the IPO’s resulting amendment, introduces the exemption without levy, which is something the UK record industry officially opposes.

Especially as the exemption specifically covers digital lockers, with the amendment stressing that private copies can be made to “an electronic storage facility accessed by means of the internet or similar means, where that facility is provided for [the user’s] sole private use”.

Digital locker providers who can now exploit this new right should pay a levy for the privilege, the record industry’s argument goes, though as most music-focused cloud storage set-ups have to get a licence off the music companies anyway, in order to offer scan-and-match functionality, the IPO might counter that no levy system is really required.

The music industry also isn’t that keen on the parody exemption, the amendment for which was also published last week. The proposed wording for this new fair dealing provision – which basically says that copyright is not infringed if a work is copied or performed for “the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche” – doesn’t go into any great detail as to when exactly this would apply. Which is likely to further concern the music industry’s lobbyists.

Although debate on whether or not these provisions should be introduced at all was closed off by the IPO after last year’s consultation, which resulted in the aforementioned ‘Modernising Copyright’ report, feedback is being accepted on the wording of these specific amendments, up until 17 Jul. More info here.