Waiting for Stalin: © news

THE FREELANCE is still waiting for the (UK) government to produce its consultation on proposed changes to copyright law - mostly aimed at increasing the number of ways that people can re-copy your work.

We understand that it's been written for weeks, but is waiting for a slot in the "matrix" of news releases designed to maximise the impact of some, and minimise that of others.

When said copyright consultation does materialise, we shall respond. We will mention that it's a bit silly to legislate to permit use of works whose authors cannot be located, without at the same time making sure that all authors, including we journalists, have the right to be identified ("no orphan works law without full moral rights", in the jargon). The current "exceptions" to copyright, such as that allowing quotation for review and criticism, are essential. But proposed new "exceptions", for example the one finally making it legal to make "private copies" in the UK, must come, if they come, with arrangements for compensation through collecting societies.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Parliament is debating a Directive which would instruct every member state to pass a law to permit licensing of "orphan works" and recognise each others' decisions on whether a particular piece of work is orphaned. Apart from specifying that a work cannot be declared "orphan" without a "diligent search" for its author, the current draft pretty much leaves it up to member states to decide how to carry out this licensing.

And in Washington DC the US Supreme Court has heard, and is likely still pondering its judgement on, an attempt to put works by non-US authors - mostly dead ones - out of copyright in the US. The case Golan v Holder challenges a 1994 law that re-recognised non-US authors' copyrights that had expired under US law. This law was a necessary requirement for the US to remain a member of the World Trade Organization and of the Berne Convention that sets out international law on authors' rights.

Never mind that: some are inveighing against evil foreign authors (you or, more likely, your mum or granddad) reviving copyrights in the US, comparing them to Joseph Stalin (onetime dear leader of the Soviet Union, m'lud). But surely his thing was expropriating property, and that's what the anti-copyright forces wish for us foreigners?

Last modified: 06 Dec 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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