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Copyright Strategy

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, has made the following statement:

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, together with the Intellectual Property Office, is today “© The Way Ahead: A Strategy for Copyright in the Digital Age”.

This report set out the policies which will drive the UK approach to copyright in the digital age, reflecting how the UK is working to deliver the right solutions at a domestic level and to help drive the agenda on copyright issues in Europe and internationally.

The core objective of “© The Way Ahead: A Strategy for Copyright in the Digital Age” is to ensure the copyright system supports creativity and promotes investment and jobs while also ensuring that consumers are able to act with certainty and clarity.

Building on the framework for supporting the creative industries set out in the “Digital Britain Report and Creative Britain”, its ambition is to set out a copyright roadmap determining the lessons policy makers should take from the present to help decide where we should go in the future.

This copyright strategy will support fair treatment for creators; secure a viable future for rights holders; allow consumers to benefit from the digital age; and create a simpler system for businesses to operate in.

This copyright strategy highlights three principles that need to be kept in mind in order to create a positive environment for copyright owners, consumers and business.

First, copyright is harmonised at a European level and any action pursued domestically needs to be understood within this context;

secondly, a pragmatic recognition that intervention from Government will not be the most useful action in all areas requiring attention, with it being more beneficial for business and copyright owners to pursue many solutions; and

finally, recognition that Government have a responsibility to serve the interests of all participants in the copyright framework.

The strategy develops a number of policy announcements in the “Digital Britain Report”, as well as encouraging domestic and international actions, which satisfy these three principles. The strategy states that the UK will:

Enable a system of copyright licensing on an opt-out rather than opt-in basis, as is successfully practised elsewhere in Europe.

Take powers to allow “orphan works” that have no clear owner to be used without fear of criminal liability.

Act to monitor the behaviour of collecting societies.

Encourage creative industries to employ standard contract terms and licences that give creators more control over their work.

Enable business to continue to develop new business models, products and services that better meet customer expectations on utility and price, including making it easier to license copyright works.

Ensure consumers respect copyright by encouraging the development of attractive legitimate services and tackling illicit peer-to-peer file-sharing.

Signal its readiness to consider sympathetically Europe-wide moves to let non-commercial users use copyright works without fear of legal complications.

Inevitably there will be some questions about how this work links in with what we are going to do about tackling unlawful peer-to-peer file-sharing. On unlawful file-sharing I am intending to make clear our intention to go ahead with legislation in this area which will establish a proportionate, but effective, way of reducing significantly the level of online infringement which is causing such damage to our creative industries. The approach of requiring internet service providers to send notifications to subscribers identified by rights holders as unlawfully file-sharing, and collecting data on the number of notifications sent to each subscriber which the rights holder can obtain via a court order, has been debated for some time, as has the imposition of technical measures should that approach not produce the results anticipated.

What I will also make clear, however, is that temporary account suspension could be included in the measures taken, something that we floated as part of a Government statement on 25 August 2009. Additionally I will make it clear that we are not expecting the whole cost to fall on internet service providers, but on the basis of a flat fee approach costs will be shared so that both sides can plan and budget. The full details of what we are intending, and the official response to the consultation that closed on 29 September 2009 will be made clear when the legislation is published next month.

The two policies are complementary. It is right for Government to intervene on unlawful file-sharing to help create the space in which innovative business offerings can emerge. But it is also right that this should be done against the background of a fair deal for all parties. Creators and those who invest in creativity must receive a fair reward—the creative industries are built on that precept—but we also need to move to reinstate the respect that copyright should command from reasonable law-abiding people. Without that respect we—and the creative industries—face a much harder struggle.

Copies of the “Copyright Strategy” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.