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Reviewed 14 December 2011

Government plans to improve UK's copyright laws

Proposals to modernise the copyright system and remove unnecessary barriers to growth were unveiled by the Government today.

The consultation, which follows up the recommendations in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, is part of a wider programme of work from government that includes action to tackle online infringement of copyright and to make sure the copyright system best encourages the creation and use of music, books, video and other copyright material.

The proposals include:

  • Creating an exception to allow limited acts of private copying - for example making it legal to copy a CD to an MP3 player. This move will bring copyright law into line with modern technology and the reasonable expectations of consumers.
  • Widening the exception for non-commercial research to allow data mining, enabling researchers to achieve new medical and scientific advances from existing research. Currently researchers cannot use some new computer techniques to read data from journal articles which they have already paid to access without specific permission from the copyright owners of each article.
  • Introducing an exception for parody and pastiche, to give comedians and other people the creative freedom to parody someone else’s work without seeking permission from the copyright holder.
  • Establishing licensing and clearance procedures for ‘orphan works’ (material with unknown copyright owners). This would open up a range of works that are currently locked away in libraries and museums and unavailable for consumer or research purposes.
  • Introducing provision for voluntary extended collective licensing schemes, which would make it simpler to get permission to use copyrighted works and help ensure rights owners are paid. These schemes would allow authorised collecting societies to license on behalf of all rights holders in a sector (except for those who choose to opt out).
  • Modernising other exceptions to copyright including those for education, quotation, and people with disabilities.

Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said:

"The Government is focused on boosting growth and some freeing up of existing copyright legislation can deliver real value to the UK economy without risking our excellent creative industries. We are encouraging businesses to come forward with thoughts and evidence on our proposals to help us achieve this.

"It's an exciting time for the development of intellectual property in the UK. We have already appointed Richard Hooper to run a feasibility study into a Digital Copyright Exchange and this consultation is the next step to ensure copyright legislation in the UK keeps up to date with emerging technologies and consumer demand."

The Government is encouraging responses to the consultation which will close on 21 March.

Notes to editors

  • The consultation will run for 14 weeks, and will conclude on 21 March 2012.
  • Comments on the consultation can be submitted by e-mail to Copyright Consultation or by post to, David Burgess, Copyright Consultation, Intellectual Property Office, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3HF.
  • The Government's broad policy on these issues was set out in its response to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth.
  • The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.
  • The IPO's role is to help manage an IP system that encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge-based economy.
  • The IPO operates in a national and an international environment and its work is governed by national and international law, including various international treaties relating to Intellectual Property (IP) to which the United Kingdom is a party.
  • For further information, please e-mail Copyright Consultation.

Date of release: 14 December 2011