Gowers critiqued

Thanks to Jordan Hatcher for reporting an AHRC Research Centre for Studies in IP open forum, which discussed The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. The discussions had a strong Scottish flavour, but the criticisms reproduced here also apply generally.

Gowers’ strengths * Improving the research exception in patent law, to bring greater flexibility and greater growth to the sciences). * Copyright exceptions for distance learning and library / archival purposes. * An Office of Fair Trading investigation of collecting societies was welcomed for potential benefits to artists and authors. * Rejection of ‘music industry’ calls for an extension of the copyright term extension for sound recordings

Gowers’ weaknesses * The system of voluntary registration of copyright would not be effective. Most orphan works that museums and libraries (in particular) are interested in are of the type that would never be registered (such as family photos). * The recommendations to improve patent quality are welcome, but unlikely to actually improve patent quality. In addition, the recommendations failed to recognise work that is already ongoing on in this area. * The recommendation for a private copying exception for format shifting is generally unworkable. (How does one regulate the allowance of a single copy per new media format? Creating a legal right to do so would be unlikely to produce change in consumer behaviour. Gowers’ structural faults

* Not enough time given to comprehensively review the area of law, or the 440+ public submissions * The Gowers Review was characterised as an instance of ‘evidence influenced ‘ policy making rather than the ‘evidence based’ approach that the Report itself claims to take (although – notes ian Brown – even this is an improvement on the bad old days of ‘evidence free’ IP policy). * A bigger question, which Gowers failed to address, is which Ministry should be ‘the one’ to deal with IP — although it was suggested that a cross government body on IP may be preferred.