Intellectual Property | Writers Could Lose Out Under Changes To Copyright Law

Just over a year ago the Government published a consultation on modernising UK copyright law. The consultation focused on providing greater access to works and outlines a number of potential reforms to copyright. Although the Government’s copyright modernisation programme has been largely welcomed by those in the creative world, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is concerned about proposals to significantly widen the current ‘fair dealing’ exceptions. The proposals would include limited allowances permitting use of copyright works without a licence in specific circumstances.

Chief Executive of the ALCS, Owen Atkinson, has said that whilst it is reassuring that the government has recognised the importance of secondary licence income to writers, writing and creativity within its latest recommendations, the ALCS will continue to work with the Government and the European Commission to ensure that writer’s interests are protected wherever changes to copyright are proposed.

In addition, the European Commission published plans for its own review of copyright in December. The review set out a two-year programme to look at a number of areas including the exceptions to copyright that Member States may include in their national legislation.

Meantime the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Copyright Standing Committee has been considering the question of copyright exceptions for some time and has recently included the issue of educational use to its agenda.

Mr Atkinson added that there is clearly a growing impetus in international copyright discussions to explore ways to expand permitted access to authors’ works. He added that ALCS will continue to monitor and report on these developments throughout 2013, intervening and lobbying wherever necessary to protect the interests of writers.

Of greatest concern to the ALCS were the reforms put forward on educational use. A proposed reduction in the ability of copyright holders to licence their work in this sector could lead to a potential loss of around £12 million per year in secondary income to ALCS members. The ALCS provided the government with independent economic evidence of the impact such a reform of copyright would have. They provided many testimonies from members clearly identifying the link between secondary rights licence income and the ability of writers to create high quality content for the education sector.

Following the evidence received by the Government from ALCS during the consultation, the options to reduce the scope of the current licensing schemes will not be pursued.

As a solicitor, Rebecca Howlett, specialises in intellectual property

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London