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Professor Hargreaves comments are enlightening and refreshing. The EU should take note, in light of the impending publication of the IPRED review:

Make policy based on evidence not lobbying. Creative industries need to change their business model. Anti-piracy lobby groups are 'alarmist'. Scarcity of reliable data to back up enforcement measures. Digital Economy Act should be carefully monitored.

The UK review of copyright law, led by Professor Ian Hargreaves, has concluded that the copyright framework is outdated and obstructive for innovation in the digital age. He calls for copyright policy to be made on weight of evidence, not weight of lobbying, and accused the creative industries of being alarmist about 'piracy'.

On enforcement, he warns that governments must do more to ensure that the creative industries make available legal content, saying that stronger enforcement measures such as the Digital Economy Act cannot work unless more effort is put into the business model. He is pointedly critical of the available research which claims to point to the scale of piracy, saying that it is unreliable. And he is scathing of the whinging

creative industry lobbyists who submitted to him that piracy reflects 'a mortal threat to the economic and creative processes which underpin our business' .

(I could have a reasonable guess at who submitted that... a certain film industry lobby group perhaps?)

On the available research, he commented:

"There is no doubt that a great deal of piracy is taking place, but reliable data is surprisingly thin on the ground. There is no shortage of claims about levels of infringement, but in the Review's four months of evidence gathering, we have failed to find a single UK survey that is demonstrably statistically robust."

And he added: " For many surveys, methodology is not available for peer review." This is something which I have noted as well - there are lots of numbers being touted, but the methodology and the assumptions are not available, therefore one cannot judge the credibility of the research.

'Such research as exists indicates that we should be wary of expecting tougher enforcement alone to solve the problem of copyright infringement.'

Professor Hargreaves' key point is that the British copyright framework needs to change:

"We have found that the UK's intellectual property framework, especially with regard to copyright, is falling behind what is needed" Copying has become basic to numerous industrial processes, as well as to a burgeoning service economy based upon the internet. The UK cannot afford to let a legal framework designed around artists impede vigorous participation in these emerging business sectors."

"Our intellectual property framework will face further significant pressure to adapt in the coming years, as we make our way into the third decade of the commercial internet. We urge Government to ensure that in future, policy on Intellectual Property issues is constructed on the basis of evidence, rather than weight of lobbying, and to ensure that the institutions upon which we depend to deliver intellectual property policy have clear mandates and adaptive capability."

A key proposal is a digital copyright exchange where small business can purchase rights to use copyrighted material with a minimum of fuss. The aim is to reduce the red tape and the administative hurdles which are currently put in the way of anyone outside an elite set of creative industry organisations who wants to buy licences, especially for online use.

The review also looks to the European Commission's initiaive to modernise licencing, although I suspect we will have a long time to wait before that is resolved.

Professor Hargreaves urges the British government to take advantage of the full suite of exceptions available under the EU copyright directive, saying that this will 'bring important cultural as well as economic benefits to the UK'.

However, Hargreaves concluded that a US-style 'fair use' defence would not be feasible under UK law.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Media Show yesterday, Professor Hargreaves said 'Need to get the law not to tell people they can't do things that are palpably reasonable, like downloading a track from a CD to an MP3 player. '

'We are about to go for a very big step up in enforcement - DE Act - if we want that to work we better make sure we target it in the right way, and we better evalute and research it, because at the moment the research is useless as a weather map.'

'If you go it alone on enforcement to try to solve the problems, you won't succeed. If you modernise the models, then you have a chance with your enforcement.'

The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2011) UK copyright review: don't base policy on lobbyists unreliable, alarmist claims 19 May 2011 .

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed.


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About Iptegrity is the website of Dr Monica Horten.

I am a tech policy specialist, published author, post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Currently working on UK Online Safety Bill.

Recent media quotes: BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian, Politico.  Panelist: IAPP,  CybersecuritySummit. Parliament and Internet. June 2022-July 2023 w/ Open Rights Group. is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

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