UK Government Announces Copyright Plans; Surprisingly Good, With A Few Problems
from the and-expect-a-huge-legal-fight dept
As was expected, the current UK government has made it clear that it would like to follow the (relatively mild) suggestions of the Hargreaves report. Glyn Moody does an excellent job breaking down the details of the government’s announcement, noting that it’s mostly good, though there are a few areas of concern. One nice thing is that the government insists that it will require actual evidence that stronger IP laws actually benefit the country, rather than just taking it on faith. Hopefully they follow through on that.
There are a few interesting specific notes in the report, including saying that it will not support “site blocking,” as a way to deal with infringement. I’m not quite sure that fits with the recent Newzbin2 ruling in the UK that ordered BT to block the site, but it certainly seems notable. Unfortunately, they are implementing a £20 fee for anyone who wishes to appeal a “strike” under the Digital Economy Act. This is problematic, as it again seems to assume guilt before innocence, and makes you pay to get a review of your own innocence.
The government’s plan also appears to support a broadcast treaty, which is a dangerous plan to give intellectual property-like rights to broadcasters over works they broadcast even if they’re in the public domain. This recommendation seems wholly out of place. In the end, Moody sums it up, saying that while there are some bad things, there’s a lot to be encouraged by:
However, to summarise an over-long post, the UK Government’s response to the Hargreaves Report is much better than I expected. It has largely accepted Hargreaves’s main points, including the crucial one about the need for evidence before policy is formulated, or action is taken. Of course, there remain problems – the £20 fee for appeals is hugely discriminatory – and the UK Government did not address the underlying problems with copyright and patents, but that is not surprising – neither did Hargreaves and his team.
By setting himself a more modest goal of pointing out the most flagrant absurdities of the system in our digital world, and offering plausible fixes, Hargreaves seems to have managed to convince the UK Government of the wisdom of accepting more or less all of them. That’s no mean achievement, and both parties deserve kudos for arriving at this starting point, even if the real legislative journey has only just begun.
For the most part, I agree. I am curious how this will play out in actual policy however. The entertainment industry is an incredibly powerful lobby, and history has shown that they have had tremendous success, decade after decade, in convincing politicians of their evidence-free claims on certain things. Often it just takes trotting out some celebrity to complain. At other times they use a variety of tactics that get politicians to make proposals that clearly favor the specific interests of a few legacy players, pretending they’re for actual content creators instead. I have no doubt that we will see quite a battle in the UK over this pretty quickly, and while I’m encouraged by much of what’s been said, I have little faith that those implementing the policy will be able to successfully do so without being pressured by the industry into changing those plans.