March 20, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Patent Office want evidence to justify new copyright exceptions for artists

The Patent Office needs to hear from artists and creators. Please let us help you get in touch.

The Patent Office is charged with implementing the exciting recommendations suggested in the recent Gowers Review of IP. But they are yet to be convinced of the crucial need for some of these recommendations, mainly because they're finding it hard to get in touch with the relevant practioners. They are looking for concrete examples of creative practices inhibited by the law, to back up proposed exceptions for the purposes of "creative, transformative or derivative works" and "caricature, parody or pastiche".

Would you, your colleagues, students or collaborators benefit from these exceptions? Are you working or have you worked on a project outlawed by the overly-protectionst copyright regime, which would have benefited from these kinds of exceptions? If so, please get in touch - info[at] - and share your experience.

Rights holders were of course quick to lobby against these suggested exceptions. In their opinion the dismal and labour-intensive "must-ask-permission!" culture of copyright-licensing works just fine as it is. They don't see the creative and social opportunities in remixing and poking fun, only the economic-downsides in losing control of their 'IP assets'.

But if you are a practicing artist with relevant experiences to share, please get in touch today so we can show the importance of copyright exceptions to Patent Office.

Comments (12)

  1. RH Davies:
    May 01, 2007 at 02:10 AM

    Nobody enforces the laws of copyright at all as it is and working artists are ripped off left right and centre because they can't afford to pay lawyers £260 per hour or £700 per letter, £700 for ONE LETTER - quoted by a an artists copyright lawyer in the Islington Design Centre- to a guy who hired me, strung me along for months and then didn't pay me for three months work as a result of which I am in huge debt and can't do anything about it.

    So what is the point of worrying about copyright laws "stifling creativity" WHEN NOBODY ENFORCES THEM ANYWAY?

    You want details? Name rank and number? Mail me!

  2. artcodex reblog – Visit the Open Rigths Group (UK):
    Jul 17, 2007 at 08:09 PM

    [...] Visit the Open Rigths Group (UK) Posted by v on March 28th, 2007 [...]

  3. ben:
    Apr 09, 2007 at 10:10 PM

    I can't say I have any personal experiance. But its well know in the computer game modding community that copyright holders will try to stop free games based on their "intellectual property" from being published.

    The silver lining:
    is one example, its a free game based on the kings quest series, it was nearly shut down by the copyright holders.

    I know the same thing happened to a group makeing a Halo based RTS, you can read the story here

    I don't know if the new proposals will grant protection to works such as this, and I'm not part of the community that creates them, I just play them, but if there is a proposal to protect these fan made games, I'd be eternally grateful if you helped make it happen.

  4. Radio Clash Mash Up Podcast - a weekly podcast of mixes, mash-ups, and more! » Blog Archive » Want to help change the arcane UK copyright law?:
    Mar 25, 2007 at 11:04 PM

    [...] Some of you will know about the Gowers report on Copyright which recommended the loosening on rules around 'fair use' in the UK similarly to US rap groups and parodies in the US. Now according to the wonderful Open Rights group they are looking for examples to give Patent Office where copyright would have made things easier. They are looking for concrete examples of creative practices inhibited by the law, to back up proposed exceptions for the purposes of “creative, transformative or derivative works” and “caricature, parody or pastiche”. Would you, your colleagues, students or collaborators benefit from these exceptions? Are you working or have you worked on a project outlawed by the overly-protectionst copyright regime, which would have benefited from these kinds of exceptions? If so, please get in touch - info[at] - and share your experience. [...]

  5. Jez:
    Mar 26, 2007 at 12:02 PM

    There is a large scene of musicians / cut-up / "mashup" artists and songwriters who are using sampled music in their work for non-profit purposes. The result of this is that they create new and interesting arrangements of existing work and this in turn promotes and provides cultural (and hence financial) longevity to the original artist. This also opens avenues for art creation that may not have been considered and breaks down genre barriers to provide a vital, collaborative art scene.

    Genre collaboration and intellectual borrowing have always been rife within the industry (Paul Mccartney freely admitting he borrowed Musical ideas from other artists) and a rigid concept of Intellectual property does not allow for discourse or genuine experimentation.

    Most of the artists who use this process are either beginners, or cutting their teeth and "fair use" allows them to learn and demonstrate their production abilities leading to a new generation of artists and for existing artists to consider the possibilities presented to them by this process.

  6. Thriftshop XL:
    Mar 28, 2007 at 11:52 PM

    I'm UK based and make audio mashups.

    I buy TV quality pop promos from legitimate suppliers and go about editing them together to produce a hybrid audio video mashup, which I then put onto DVD ready to VJ/DJ at clubs - the punter gets to see and hear cut up AV in a club environment. It's like a DJ but with pictures - in sync, all mixed up...

    Also, I was recently commisioned by a UK-based music television group to do this for shows across their spread of channels.

    It's not just pop music I work with either.

    For example, when Ronnie Barker died last year I took some video clips from Two Ronnies sketches (especially the famous 'fork handles' sketch) and put it over the audio from Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind'. At the points where Elton is about to sing the phrase 'Candle in the wind', I replaced the word 'candle' with a shot from the sketch where Ronnie Barker says 'Fork Handles' for comedic effect - mildly amusing, eh? Illegal too...

    According to the current VPL licence the editing of these videos is explicitly prohibited, so what I do to entertain people is illegal!!!

    It's not even like I'm trying to resell this stuff without permission. I play these works in clubs to a crowd. I'd love to be legal.

    I would be more than happy to discuss this in-depth with anyone from ORG

    Good luck

  7. Rob Myers:
    Mar 29, 2007 at 12:56 PM

    Do try Vicki Bennet (, a British mash-up artist who has relocated to the US where they have better copyright exceptions.

  8. Richard Neill:
    Mar 29, 2007 at 09:45 PM

    There are a lot of cases in which sheet music is in limbo - it's out of print, but still in copyright. One can't obtain copies to perform it.

    I'd suggest a principle "Out of print means out of (non-commercial) copyright".
    [The USA had a similar proposal for orphaned works: after 20 years, copyright owners must pay a nominal $1 to keep something in copyright]

    We also need a clear exemption for photocopying music where you already own the original. (i.e. there's no lost sale). Eg when my choir wants to tour, we currently have to carry a huge amount of weight, whereas we'd like to photocopy only what we need. As a pianist, I find it helps to have copies of the music over the page, so I can avoid awkward page-turns. And some musical originals are too fragile to play, or too valuable to annotate in pencil. However, all these things are, as I understand, technically illegal.

  9. Paul Woodwright:
    Mar 22, 2007 at 09:54 AM

    Not sure if this is the sort of thing you are after but. I am in an unsigned band and are recording an album to be called Deviancy Amplification Spiral. To illustrate this we had track listing super-imposed on a girls back on the back cover and wanted to use an old painting called Examination of a Witch by T.H. Matteson. It's a picture based on the Salem witch trials in the 1600's. We wanted to super-impose our faces onto three of the characters in the court scene. We approached the museum which holds painting to ask if we could do this but when they saw rough idea were refused and told to destroy all copies and then told we couldn't use it even if we didn't change it. As we are basically a local band it seems a little over the top. I do have a copy of the rough if it would help your cause, which I could send to you if you give me an e-mail address to send it to.
    Yours faithfully
    Paul Woodwright
    Graphic Artist and band member of Deviant Amps

  10. john harding:
    Mar 22, 2007 at 10:32 AM

    I once tried to help an American scholar who was researching the late viola player Lionel Tertis, and wanted to photocopy examples of his minor compositions which were available in the British Library. Copyright permission was required for copying. The publisher of one work was no longer in business. Its properties had passed to Stainer and Bell. They told me that copyright on that work had reverted to Lionel Tertis, who was now dead. They promised to write to the lawyers representing his widow, who is of advanced age, asking them to ask her if a photocopy could be made. Needless to say we never heard. That is what copyright management adds up to in real life, under existing law.

    I am about - after ten years of unrewarded work - to launch a desktop music publishing business. I shall also in the near future take over the running of a concern called Merton Music, which publishes, at practically no profit, scanned out-of-print and out-of-copyright string chamber music, and whose founder and owner expects, for reasons of age, to be unable to keep it going much longer.

    Merton Music exists because of the existence of a large library of sheet music collected by an amateur musician, and fortunately saved after his death. Merton Music now publishes over 1,000 minor works which would otherwise be lost, probably permanently, to musicians and scholars. It makes every honest attempt to avoid infringing copyright, but as the complexities of copyright law increase it does not become easier. It would not be practical for a small and virtually charitable concern like Merton Music to obtain permission for its republications, particularly since the majority of the original publishers no longer exist.

    The aims of my own nascent business, Ourtext, are similar to those of Merton Music. I too live modestly on a pension, and need modest financial returns, but I do not know what I would do if I could not spend my life in the service of music.

    One of my recent projects has to produce editions of two historically important and musically very worthwhile 17th-century works by Georg Muffat, Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum. Muffat's commentaries on these works, which are a major source of information on French baroque performance practice, have recently been republished, but as far as I know the music is unobtainable except in libraries which have the scores (but not parts) republished in the mid-19th century. It is from copies of these publications in the British Library that I have been working. The editor of those editions died well over 70 years ago. His major contribution was to create what he represents as the missing "continuo" keyboard part. It is in fact simply a piano reduction of the string parts. My contribution has been to produce a set of parts, correcting a few obvious mistakes, and to write a true continuo part for harpsichord which, as it should do, complements, rather than reproducing, what the strings are doing. It will be printed to order on a modest laser printer, keeping overheads - and consequently prices - to a minimum. My work will enable amateur and professional players, for the first time ever, to have affordable access to a practical set of parts which will enable them to play the music in something like the manner its composer intended.

    There are other works of Muffat that merit similar treatment but I cannot do it because in those cases I am unable to establish that their editors (whose creative contribution is questionable) died before the copyright deadline, and as a single individual I do not have a copyright department to undertake research on the matter.

    The conventional publishing industry does a valuable job, but only where there is large money to be made to fuel its necessarily ponderous machinery. A few years ago a friend of mine who was running a chamber music summer schools for amateurs wanted to let them play a pleasant little work by, I think, Panufnik, or possibly Penderecki. They contacted the publishers, asking to buy parts, but were told that the parts were not on sale, but could be hired. The cost would be £100. The work lasted perhaps five minutes. It is not a work that any string orchestra would think of scheduling into a programme. The publishers have effectively killed it.

    The internet, software, desktop publishing and the existence of people like the founder of Merton Music, have made possible the creation and dissemination of work that would never bring profits to traditional publishers. We are living in exciting times, whose surge of intellectual activity will be seen in retrospect as putting the Renaissance in the shade.

    Of course the corporations want to keep a strangle hold on it.

  11. john harding:
    Mar 22, 2007 at 01:05 PM

    I want to add a gloss to my own blog above, to underline its key implications. These are:

    (a) That there is useful creative work to be done in reinterpreting existing work.

    (b) That often this new work will bring negligible if any financial reward. It will only be done by lone enthusiasts with negligible overheads.

    (c) That even with something as old as 17th century music there are copyright issues surrounding the source material available.

    (d) That obtaining certainty that you are not innocently infringing copyright is in practice often extremely difficult, if not impossible, and cannot be undertaken by lone enthusiasts.

    The move towards criminalising copyright violation significantly changes the picture. A single fine at the level sought by corporate lobbyists could ruin someone who would currently be able to achieve amicable settlement of an honest mistake under civil law. There will be people who will no longer dare act on common sense.

    Large corporations are able to navigate copyright because they maintain expensive teams of copyright researchers and lawyers.

    The world would be much fairer if there were some public body - like the Patent Office in its transformed state - which was able, affordably, to act as a clearing house or honest broker for permissions, and even more so if the law permitted a presumption that permission was given if it was not denied within some reasonable period.

    With modern communications it would be technically feasible for permission applications to be posted on an internet-accessible database, and for corporations holding copyright to do automated sweeps. It might even be cheaper for them.

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