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Hargreaves report: copyright laws get a makeover

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The government-commissioned report, called Digital Opportunity (and disparagingly nicknamed the Google Review after the Prime Minister questioned whether, under the UK’s copyright infringement laws, the internet giant would have been able to start up in the UK) was written by Professor Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University. It recommends a number of measures to make it easier for media and other online companies to use copyrighted material – although it stops short of advocating an American-style “fair use” system.

These include:

* Create a digital rights exchange so owners of content can connect directly with a buyer

* Support creation of a Europe-wide copyright framework

* Allow use of “orphan” works where the rights owner cannot be located

* Allow transfer of content between formats (such as uploading music to iPods)

* Allow copyrighted material to be used for parodies and non-commerical research

* Review whether designs should be covered by copyright laws

* Foster better use of intellectual capital property law by small companies

Hargreaves reckons these changes could boost the UK economy by £7.9m within a decade – that’s a rise in GDP of up to 0.6 per cent.

Key stats:

65 per cent of downloads in Britain are thought to be illegal

£600bn: The value of global trade in IP licences

£280: Cost of obtaining a patent in the UK

Source: NESTA

Baroness Wilcox, minister for intellectual property, said the government would seriously consider Hargreaves’recommendations and respond soon.

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