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September 27, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

British Library launches IP manifesto

At a fringe event at the Labour Party conference on Monday, the British Library launched their manifesto for reform of UK intellectual property (IP) law. Speakers included representatives from Microsoft UK, Google, the National Consumer Council, the British Phonographic Industry and - on behalf of the Open Rights Group - Ian Brown. Pre-empting the publication of the Treasury's Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, the succinct manifesto makes six key recommendations for reform, placing them in a broad social, cultural and political context.

“Our IP Manifesto sets out the unique role that the UK national library must play as both a leading voice and an honest broker in the debate that the digital revolution has generated,” said Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library. “As a publisher in its own right, the Library understands the opportunities and threats presented by digital to the publishing industries. As one of the world's great research libraries we are equally mindful of the threat that an overly restrictive, or insufficiently clear, IP framework would pose to future creativity and innovation. For example: currently the law does not permit copying of sound or film items for preservation,” she explained. “Without the right for libraries and archives to make copies, the UK risks losing a large part of its recorded culture.”

The manifesto's key recommendations:

  1. Digital is not different– Fair dealing access and library privilege should apply to the digital world as is the case in the analogue one.
  2. Contracts and DRM – New, potentially restricting technologies (such as DRM/TPM) and contracts issued with digital works should not exceed the statutory exceptions for fair dealing access allowed for in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
  3. Archiving – Libraries should be allowed to make copies of sound (and film) recordings to ensure they can be preserved for posterity in the future.
  4. Term of copyright – The copyright term for sound recording rights should not be extended without empirical evidence and the needs of society as a whole being borne in mind.
  5. Orphan works – The US model of dealing with orphan works should be considered for the UK.
  6. Unpublished works – The length of copyright term for unpublished works should be retrospectively brought in line with other terms – life plus 70 years.

Intellectual Property: A Balance - The British Library Manifesto

This is very encouraging news indeed. Historically, IP debates have been dominated by corporate interests, with alternative voices simply not heard by legislators. Now the British Library joins the RSA and the British Council in calling for the return of balance to our IP framework. Balance in this context is shorthand for better representation of public - as opposed to private - interests entailing, for example, protection and expansion of the public domain and a more robust 'fair dealing' mechanism. The Open Rights Group wholeheartedly supports this suggested direction for reform of IP law.

Finally! Somebody gets it that DRM is altering the copyright law bargain, by not allowing fair dealing/fair use. And it's the British Library that is speaking out and saying that the same rules of the road should apply in the digital world as they have always done.

The British Library Gets It! - Groklaw

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Comments (2)

  1. Michael:
    Sep 28, 2006 at 09:48 AM

    Thanks Chrs, have now amended the post.

  2. chrs:
    Sep 28, 2006 at 09:13 AM

    You've quoted those key recommendations wrongly. Number 1 should be:

    Digital is not different– Fair dealing access and library privilege should apply to the digital
    world as is the case in the analogue one.

    as it stands it is just the same as Number 6.



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