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Copyright expert calls for reforms, European patents and an Exchange

The UK government was this week told by a copyright expert, Professor Ian Hargreaves from Cardiff University, that copyright law in the UK needs an ov

By PETER WHITE

Published: 19 May, 2011

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The UK government was this week told by a copyright expert, Professor Ian Hargreaves from Cardiff University, that copyright law in the UK needs an overhaul to help entrepreneurs make money out of using the internet.

The long standing review sponsored by the Business Ministry came out with 10 core recommendations.

The first was about ensuring that any changes resulted in cases that were easy to prove, by basing the laws themselves on the potential for objective evidence. He also called for an immediate priority for achieving a unified EU patent court and patent system, something that has dogged policy makers in Europe for over two decades.

Hargreaves called for the setting up of a Digital Copyright Exchange, something we have analyzed out in a separate story (see below), which he says Government should drive by appointing a senior figure to oversee its design and implementation by the end of 2012. This exchange should take in all copyrightable works and any that fell outside this scope, so called Orphan works, should also be licensable through it.

Hargreaves asked that the UK Government changes the law so that copyright is not over-regulated. Right now things like format shifting, parodying movies, non-commercial research, and library archiving should not be illegal under copyright law, but currently are.

He also draws attention to what he calls Patent thickets, which are areas where enterprises raise hundreds of related patents, many of them overlapping, and proposes to charge for renewing patents, which would weed out thousands of low value patents and these Patent Thickets seek to avoid excessive charges.

Another point related to how design and innovation are connected and ask if we should allow designs to be copyrighted and whether this might be part of the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange.

The idea of a small claims court for copyright infringement is put forward for low monetary value intellectual property claims at the Patents County Court.

One of the things which stopped the European Commission’s legislation on a European Patents system getting through European Parliament a few years ago was because changes looked like they favored large companies. To counteract this Hargreaves calls for advice being made available for free, for smaller businesses.

Hargreaves said that if all of these points were followed it would make the UK

the best place in the world to do business with digital content. We’re not so sure that’s achievable.

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