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.


  1. Need to be careful here because many of the UK exemptions (and Australia also, I think) also require payment of copyright fees

  2. Prentice seems to be wanting a system where he puts in any law he wants, and then sets up a committee to discuss what all was wrong with it.

    The British system of doing the investigation first and implementing law later sounds a lot like common sense.

  3. But what if they do consult, and still decide that DCMA-type law is the way to go?

  4. And interested parties have until April 8th — that’s three months — to research and write their submission.

    Canadian Heritage, Library and Archives Canada, THAT is how to consult. Why are your “consultations” so ridiculously short and poorly-promoted?

  5. “But what if they do consult, and still decide that DCMA-type law is the way to go?”
    The point here is the more democratic approach on making a law which could have a huge impact on the future of a Country than the final decision. If the DCMA-type is the way to go it would be decided by a large variety of stakeholders instead of a few foreign and powerful corporations (where of course stakeholders recommendation would be really taken into account).

  6. “But what if they do consult, and still decide that DCMA-type law is the way to go?”

    Well, at the moment they are trying to completely sidestep any sort of public or transparent process. At least if they are going through the motions it is one less thing we need to fight for and can concentrate on more important things like the actual content.

  7. freshwatermermaid says:

    “But what if they do consult, and still decide that DCMA-type law is the way to go?”

    If they consult and find the Canadian people want a DCMA (highly unlikely) then they will go ahead. If they find the Canadian people do not want a Canadian DCMA and they choose that route anyway, they will have consulted and will therefore know it is an election issue. Before preserving relationships, promises and allegiances, politicians will first act to preserve their jobs.

  8. Just to correct Jon, there are no copyright levies in the UK. The UK Treasury doesn’t collect taxes on behalf of private bodies 🙂