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© change coming

Changes to the copyright regime in the UK are afoot. Her Majesty Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg Gotha announced at the opening of Parliament on Wednesday 18 November that:

My government will introduce a bill to ensure the communications infrastructure is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting.

Eh? Downing Street adds:

"The main benefits of the Bill would be:
  • Promoting a competitive digital communications infrastructure, through proposals on radio licensing, changes to Ofcom’s duties and spectrum modernisation.
  • Providing essential support for creative industries in a digital world, through proposals on online copyright infringement and changes to copyright licensing..." ah!

What copyright and authors' rights campaigners are led to expect is that one line will appear in the Bill, empowering the Minister to "make regulations" setting up a framework for "exteded collective licensing" in the UK. That would mean that for example the British Library could scan books and put them online - without asking, but with payment to creators such as writers and photographers.

Background here; more on the NUJ response follows soon, when the union's Annual Delegate Meeting has voted.

Update 13:30

And the Bill has been published already and formally accepted for debate ( "had its first reading") by the House of Lords. It provides, as expected, for the Minister to make rules (a "Statutory Instrument") enabling:

  • Schemes for licensing use of "orphan works"; and
  • Extended collective licensing
...but is more tightly drawn than expected - for example it specifies that unpublished works may not be licensed except expressly by the owner.

Interestingly, the Bill would also extend the Public Lending Right scheme - which pays authors (including photographers) for library loans - to audio-books and e-books. This measure is restricted to brick-and-mortar libraries. (This only became clear when we found that the reference defining of "lending" was to an amended definition in the Bill itself.)

Last modified: 27 Nov 2009 - © 2009 contributors
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