By: MarkJ - 4 November, 2010 (12:01 PM)
parliament logoThe UK governments Prime Minster (PM), David Cameron, has given a speech in East London today where he revealed new plans to review the country's Intellectual Property Laws (i.e. Copyright) with respect to making "them fit for the internet age".

This could conceivably affect the controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA), which seeks to clamp down on unlawful ("illegal") internet P2P File Sharing of software and media (music, films etc.) by broadband ISP customers.

The PM, David Cameron, said:

"The second new announcement I can make today is to do with intellectual property. The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain. The service they provide depends on taking a snapshot of all the content on the internet at any one time and they feel our copyright system is not as friendly to this sort of innovation as it is in the USA.

Over there, they have what are called 'fair-use' provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services. So I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age."

The Open Rights Group (ORG), an often outspoken critic of the country's harsh internet copyright laws and their perceived threat to free speech, has been quick to welcome the news.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Right Group, said:

"The Digital Economy Act left a massive hole of missing user rights like personal copying and parody. It's great to have the opportunity to make the case for modern copyright that works for citizens and artists rather than yesterday's global publishing monopolies."

However we must caution against too much optimism and would be extremely surprised if such a review actually affected the DEA in any meaningful way. To date the government has shown no sign of being able to recognise any of the fundamental problems with this act, such as how it risks targeting innocent users.

UPDATE 5th November 2010

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has also welcomed the announcement and noted that they have been contacted by the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) and are being encouraged to participate in the consultation process. According to communication issued to stakeholders yesterday it is expected to focus on the following areas:
# “Identification of barriers to growth in the IP system, and how to overcome them;
# How the IP framework could better enable new business models appropriate to the digital age.
# IP and barriers to new internet-based business models, including information access, costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders, and investigating what are the benefits of “fair use” exceptions to copyright and how these might be achieved in the UK;
# The cost and complexity of enforcing IP rights within the UK and internationally;
# The interaction of the IP and Competition frameworks;
# The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing IP services to help them to protect and exploit IP.”*
The Review will report to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by April 2011.
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