UK Issues Public Consultation on More Flexible Copyright

As the battle over Canada's private copying levy intensifies – London Drugs and the Retail Council Canada are following up on yesterday's Best Buy op-ed by urging customers to write to the government – the United Kingdom has just provided Industry Minister Jim Prentice with a terrific example of how to lead on copyright from both a policy and political perspective.  This morning, the UK government released a public consultation on "the future of copyright in the digital age."  The consultation includes four recommendations:

  • create a format shifting exception that would allow for private copying without compensation
  • create a new parody exception
  • facilitate distance learning through greater flexibility for schools and universities
  • allow libraries to use technology to preserve content

This proposal is significant in terms of content and process.  From a content perspective, it demonstrates that other countries are moving forward on key consumer issues like format shifting and parody, while the December Canadian DMCA neglected to address those concerns.  Canada needs similar reforms and the Conservative government should be actively working to include them within its copyright reform plans.

From a process perspective, the UK government has just provided a blueprint for how Prentice should address the copyright file.  It started with a comprehensive review of intellectual property law (the Gowers Report) in 2006 that resulted in a comprehensive report that attempted to strike the right balance on difficult policy issues.  It has followed up on the report with this latest consultation – 96 pages of detail on the key recommendations – and given the public four months to comment.  The final chapter will presumably feature legislation based on extensive input from all stakeholders.  The Canadian government would do well to copy this blueprint. Rather than pushing forward with the ill-advised Canadian DMCA, it should start with a comprehensive digital copyright consultation early in 2008.

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