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Vince Cable talks copyright

By | Published on Wednesday 3 August 2011


So, as expected, Business Secretary Vince Cable has confirmed that he plans to bring into law some of the key recommendations of the recent Hargreaves Review of copyright, in particular a private copy right, allowing people to make private back up copies of CDs they make (these days mainly by ripping them to PC or MP3 player), and a parody right, which would enable people to post parodies of songs on websites like YouTube without the permission of whoever owns the original work.

Cable has also announced a few other interesting bits of copyright related news. First, that his department will investigate the practicalities of launching some sort of digital rights exchange, another of Hargreaves’ proposals. And second, that he and OfCom are now of the opinion that the section of the Digital Economy Act that would have put in place a system whereby copyright owners could force ISPs to block access to infringing websites was both unworkable and unnecessary.

It’s not needed, Cable says, in light of last week’s Newzbin ruling, in which BT was ordered to block access to a movie rights infringing website without any new law or system being introduced. BT itself, despite losing the Newzbin case, welcomed the ruling on the basis that it proved no new injunctions system was needed. ISPs, although not liking web-blocking in general, are happier if any such blocks come via a court order than through any faster kind of special injunction system, such as that the DEA had the potential to introduce (this section was always a bit vague, and basically on hold anyway).

Record label trade body the BPI, which lobbied hard for the web-blocking clause in the DEA, is not convinced, however. It told CMU this morning: “Every day blatantly illegal foreign sites flout our laws, rip off consumers and musicians and wreak huge damage on our creative sector. Government has recognised that blocking such sites could help to reduce levels of infringement, but that there needs to be a more effective framework that enables speedier action. Government must now act urgently to put in place effective means to protect consumers, creators and UK jobs from the impact of illegal foreign sites. A failure to do so will see some of this country’s world-leading industries irreparably damaged on this Government’s watch”.

However the BPI said it welcomed the introduction of the private copy right in the UK, saying “As we have consistently said, BPI believes that consumers should be able to legally ‘format shift’ music they have legitimately bought to their own computers and devices, so we welcome the Government’s consultation on this issue”.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether the BPI’s members push for a levy to be charged on digital devices in return for the private copy right, as happens in some other countries.