Any Hint Of Evidence Based Copyright In The UK Seen As Nefarous Plot By Parliamentary Copyright Maximalists

from the can't-have-that dept

The laws governing intellectual monopolies in the UK are in a state of flux at the moment. After the previous government in its dying hours rammed through the shoddy piece of work known as the Digital Economy Act, the present coalition government took a more rational approach by commissioning the Hargreaves Review into the impact of digital technologies on this area. One of its key proposals was that policy should be based on evidence, not "lobbynomics"; the fact that this even needs to be mentioned says much about the way laws have been framed until now.

As a result, the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has been trying to gather evidence in order to help politicians draw up new policies that correspond to the data, not just dogma. Not surprisingly, perhaps, those that have done well under the previous evidence-free approach have been mounting a rearguard action against the changes.

One of the people unhappy about both the Hargreaves Review and the IPO's response is the UK MP Peter Wishart, who made the following comments about them in Parliament earlier this year:

Ian Hargreaves was notionally in charge of that process [of looking at digital copyright], but having observed evidence being taken, and the report and recommendations be delivered, I suggest that the hand of the Intellectual Property Office was all over it. I believe that Ian Hargreaves was perhaps a figurehead, because the IPO seems to have driven the agenda. We will discuss some of the exceptions to copyright that the IPO proposed as part of its consultation, but it has been steering the process all the way through.

What is that predicated on? It is predicated on the belief that economic evidence should be at the heart of every initiative and everything that we do concerning intellectual property law. Ian Hargreaves has been perhaps a little cavalier when it comes to intellectual property, and we could say that he has made heroic assumptions about the value of some of the proposed recommendations and exceptions.
Wishart is also the Vice Chair of something called the All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group. Here's how it describes itself:
The Group was launched in 2003 as a response to this and to create a resource for parliamentarians of both Houses interested in learning more about intellectual property (IP), its role in stimulating creativity and economic growth, how new services are developing to serve consumer needs, and the harm that can be caused when IP is not properly respected and protected.
As that makes clear, the All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group is not an official UK government body, but more of a club for like-minded individuals. Earlier this year, the group announced its unofficial inquiry into how the UK government was handling intellectual monopolies:
The Group will seek to unpick the tangled web of cross-departmental responsibilities in this area by considering how policy has been developed, the effectiveness of the current approach, and whether the machinery of government can be improved for better policy formulation.
It's hard not to see this as an attack on the IPO and its new approach -- one of the six questions posed was "How effective is the Intellectual Property Office and what should its priorities be? (pdf)". That suspicion is confirmed by the recent publication of the results (pdf).

The group's philosophy is made plain early on in the document:

The fact that IP attracts so much interest reflects its increasing importance in our economy. Clearly IP on its own does not generate economic activity, but as a property right, it enables innovators, creators, manufacturers and designers to protect their innovation and monetise their work.
Except that copyright and patents aren't property rights, but "a government grant of a costly and dangerous private monopoly over ideas." Indeed, the increasing recognition that it makes no sense to treat copyright and patents as a property right really seems to stick in the craw of the parliamentary group. Here's what it says on the subject:
We were also concerned that officials from the IPO find it difficult to describe intellectual property as a property right. It was described as a framework by one official which immediately undermines it. If the IPO sees IP as a framework then it suggests they see it as something that can be shaped and altered at will. We question whether such a laissez fair[e] attitude would be taken to other property rights and if they were, whether senior Officials and Ministers would allow such an attitude to pervade.
Note that the IPO is blamed here for simply conveying a truth that is unpalatable to the group. Elsewhere, the report tries really hard to find other reasons to blame the IPO; unfortunately, the facts keep getting in the way:
The evidence we received and heard was varied in this respect. Certainly the IPO's role as a registration body for patents was seen as very positive as was its role in educating both consumers and business about IP.
Whoops, sounds like the IPO is doing a good job for patents, so what about for copyright?
People's criticisms of the IPO's policy making process appear to have been ignited by their most recent recommendations in relation to copyright. There were many groups who supported these recommendations and the process by which they came about, however a very large number did not.
Oh dear: "many groups" supported the IPO again; but luckily, others did not. That is hardly surprising, since some of the ideas being considered by the IPO would try to put a modicum of balance back in UK laws governing copyright. That's never really happened before, thanks to the ratchet effect that has ensured the public domain has been constantly impoverished when the law is changed.

The idea that stakeholders might have to give something back to the public in the form of minimal exceptions may be unheard of, but it's hardly unreasonable. Arguably, we need to run the ratchet back much further in order to obtain anything like a fair balance between the rights of stakeholders, and the rights of the public.

But the latter are rarely considered. Indeed, it's significant that the world "public" isn't mentioned once in the Parliamentary group's new report. The nearest thing we get is "consumers", notably in the following paragraph, which betrays a typical lack of understanding about how formerly passive consumers are morphing into active co-creators:

When the officials from the IPO gave evidence, they were very clear that they saw their role as providing balance -- they see this balance as ensuring consumers can have access to content. We believe the IPO should look more carefully at how the IP framework stimulates the creation and development of new content, services, designs and other IP rich innovation as much as how existing content can be accessed. Only if they do this, will consumers of the future continue to have access to the content, products and services they enjoy.
That paragraph sums up why the All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group so dislikes the IPO: the latter is trying to provide balance, and that is really the last thing that the copyright maximalists and their allies want to see here.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 5:30am

    The shilltrolls have been quiet this week. This one should wake them back up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 5:48am

    Stage 3

    Great - this means we're on to stage 3 of the apocryphal Gandhi quote:

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. "

     

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  3.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:02am

    Unfortunately

    "We believe the IPO should look more carefully at how the IP framework stimulates the creation and development of new content, services, designs and other IP rich innovation"

    Unfortunately, if and when the IPO actually does this they will discover that the simple answer is "it doesn't". In fact it stimulates the growth of parasitic organisations like record labels and collection societies and provides work for lawyers.

    This won't please the parliamentary group at all!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:10am

    The maximalists are ignoring the fact that IP builds on the work of others, and with people claiming copyright over sentences they will soon prevent all creation of new works unless they read like the output of ootb. Oops he has the copyright on crazy sentence construction.

     

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  5.  
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    Androgynous Cowherd, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:25am

    A minor tweak

    intellectual property (IP), its role in stimulating creativity and economic growth,


    They misspelled "stifling".

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    varagix, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:33am

    Re:

    Nope. That's a patent. Don't worry, people get confused about that sort of thing all the time.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:38am

    Re: Re:

    In which case the Lisa program is prior art. :-P

     

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  8.  
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    TasMot (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 6:40am

    IP is only property for the rightsholder

    We were also concerned that officials from the IPO find it difficult to describe intellectual property as a property right. It was described as a framework by one official which immediately undermines it.

    The rightsholders (i.e. the labels, publishers, etc.) seem to want to call it "their" property until it comes time to sell it. Then it is no longer property. Once it gets to the consumer, then it is only licensed and then the consumer is only allowed to do what the rightsholder wants to allow the consumer to do with it, with the ability to go back and change the rules at will. Once the consumer has paid for it, it can't be sold, it can be taken back at any time (see Amazon story about cancelling account), and it can't be given to anyone else and "Oh, my God", don't try to make a backup copy or a copy of any sort to protect your license or else. Wow, that just doesn't sound like any property to me.

     

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  9.  
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    out_of the_lube, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:06am

    Sadly Peter Wishart has always been a pain in the arse

    He grated his nails across a blackboard for 15 years and called the sound Runrig.
    Now hes benefiting the few at the expense of the many.
    He's one of the few reasons for not wanting to vote SNP or having independence for Scotland: the thought of him being involved is anything is just wrong.
    yes i am attacking the messenger not the message, sorry, but the message will be defended well enough here by wiser folk than me.

     

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  10.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:09am

    Re: IP is only property for the rightsholder

    No - actually the right is property - and they never sell you that.

    As with land, the sale of copyrights and patents is organised via a variety of tactics designed to ensure that ordinary people never get their hands on any significant amount.

    The tactics are

    1) Contracts with authors/songwriters/performers etc that require them to hand over the copyrights as a condition of publicity/distribution

    2) Selling these items in large job lots that are far too expensive for any ordinary person (or even group) to buy.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:09am

    Politicians like to contro people,, the copyright maximilists like to control people, it a match made in h(eaven/ell).

     

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  12.  
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    saulgoode (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:09am

    Re: IP is only property for the rightsholder

    There is also the fact that this so-called property is eventually "confiscated" by the government and its ownership transferred to the public. Clearly establishing that the copyright monopoly is not property at all, but "something that can be shaped and altered at will".

     

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  13.  
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    out_of_the_mind, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:24am

    Re: Sadly Peter Wishart has always been a pain in the arse

    OMG OOTB, did you actually make a comment without attacking Mike or the community? [Golf clap]

     

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  14.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 7:28am

    Re: Sadly Peter Wishart has always been a pain in the arse

    Actually - if you live south of the border - he is probably a good reason to hope that Scotland does get independence!

    Mrs Thatcher was often satirised as using Scotland as "the testing ground" - a hyper IP maximalist Scotland would be an excellent experiment.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Dave Xanatos, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:15am

    Re: Unfortunately

    My favorite was: "It is predicated on the belief that economic evidence should be at the heart of every initiative and everything that we do concerning intellectual property law."

    I had to read that paragraph three times before it dawned on me that he thought that using "economic evidence" was a bad thing.

    'Vice' chair indeed. How many vices does he chair?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:25am

    first thing to find out is exactly what interests MP Peter Wishart and the other members of the All Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group have in IP? what they will/are gaining by preventing the public from having access to anything? how the hell he thinks that suppressing copyright is withholding innovation and creativity etc?

     

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  17.  
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    vegetaman (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 8:40am

    Re: Unfortunately

    Que discrediting of the report because people just "feel" that it is wrong, and don't you "just know" that it is a nefarious plot!?

    After all, nothing goes further in this world than the feelings of politicians... Especially when they "feel" the need to get re-elected or appease their lobbyists... You just have to enjoy the "feel" of a good back scratching...

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Sadly Peter Wishart has always been a pain in the arse

    >out_of_the_lube
    >out_of_the_mind

    Not sure if fail or win

     

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  19. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    average_joe, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Mike supporting the theft of property again, big surprise.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 10:04am

    Re:

    Who's Mike?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 10:04am

    Re:

    Who's Mike?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_lube, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re: Sadly Peter Wishart has always been a pain in the arse

    i had kind of hoped that we might a shot at a constitution, maybe even a crowd-sourced one like Iceland's with maybe a hint of IP sense

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Re: what interests MP Peter Wishar


    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/pete_wishart/perth_and_north_perthshire

    Register of Membersí Interests
    2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc
    I receive royalty payments from EMI and from Ridge Records for my recorded works with Runrig, with whom I serve as an unremunerated director. Addresses: EMI House, 43 Brook Green, London W6 7EF and Ridge Records Limited, 1 York Street, Aberdeen AB11 5DL.
    December 2011, received £2,177.36 from Ridge records for my published works No hours worked. (Registered 10 February 2012)
    December 2011, received 2 payments of £455.38 and £481.40 from EMI Records for my published works. No hours worked. (Registered 10 February 2012)
    I receive payments for my published works from the Performing Rights Society.

    Register last updated: 30 Apr 2012. More about the Register


    Say a lot on what side of the fence he is on

     

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  24.  
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    Chargone (profile), Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 11:42am

    who's plotting?

    i can't be the only one who initially read that as the Parliamentary Copyright Maximalists being the ones doing the plotting, and was thus understandably confused. (headlines tend to leave out Who was doing the 'seeing', as it is implied to be 'various people, who we will tell you about/speak to in the article. also, possibly, the public.')

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    Are you kidding? One of them has been working overtime. Granted he'd been gone for months, but seriously...

     

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  26.  
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    btrussell (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 3:05am

    Re:

    What property is missing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    btrussell (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 3:06am

    Re: Re:

    property is missing

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    btrussell (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 3:06am

    Re: Re: Re:

    is missing

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    btrussell (profile), Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 3:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    missing

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2012 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Re: Unfortunately

    Well done, sir, you are the first to spell "nefarious" correctly. Alas, you spoilt your record by spelling "cue" incorrectly. Oh well ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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