December 05, 2006

Rigorous analysis of Gowers Review essential


5 December 2006


The Open Rights Group eagerly anticipates tomorrow's publication of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. We especially welcome the evidence-based approach that Andrew Gowers is reported to have taken, because we believe that the evidence is entirely on our side.

We have campaigned against the extension of copyright term on sound recordings, and over 700 people have signed our petition in just a couple of weeks ( We also held a very successful debate on 13 November ( to address the issues around term extension. It would seem that our campaigning, along side the British Library, the IPPR and others, has been successful, if rumours that Gowers will not be recommending an extension of term are true.

A second petition on the official No. 10 petition site calling for a right to private copy has also been very successful - it has so far been signed by over 2800 people (, putting it in the top 10 most popular petitions on the site.

But no matter how encouraging indications have been as to the direction the Gowers Review will take, it is important that we are rigorous in our analysis of the report and the press releases that will be distributed by parties with a vested interest in specific policy changes. To that end, we ask ten key questions that Gowers must have answered for his report to be valuable in forming future policy for the creative industries:

1. If we are granted the "right to private copy", which would legalise the act of copying a CD to an iPod, will the exception cover copying DVDs to iPods too? And will it allow individuals to circumvent copy protection?

2. Will companies using Technical Protection Measures (TPM) be required to ensure that their software respects all legal access rights? For example, the right to make preservation copies, the right of individuals to loan and resell, and the right to freely access and reuse material that is in the public domain?

3. Does the Gowers Review differentiate between professional counterfeiting, i.e. mass producing counterfeit DVDs and CDs to sell, and individual fans making copies for back-up or to format-shift? Will any changes to the law suggested by Gowers make this difference too?

4. Will the Gowers Review make recommendations regarding how to facilitate the use of orphaned works (where the rights holder is not known or cannot be contacted)? If not, will the Review recommend further examination of this problem?

5. Will musicians and authors be given the right to claim back their IPR when their works go out of print?

6. Will the British Library, and other archives, be allowed to make copies of sound recordings for preservation?

7. Will the law be changed to ensure that companies cannot use contract law to undermine the rights granted under copyright law?

8. Why now? In the US, copyright term extension typically comes up for discussion whenever Mickey Mouse comes close to entering the public domain. Are The Beatles the UK's Mickey Mouse?

9. The Gowers Review deliberately excludes Crown Copyright, Parliamentary Copyright, and the regulations governing Public Sector Information. When might these be reviewed in the interests of widening public access to the data we have paid for as tax payers?

10. Will the Gowers Review challenge any of the current European legislation or international treaties, many of which force a 'maximalist' stance on member nations and treaty signatories?

For the full text of the Open Rights Group's submission to the Gowers Review, please see:

Notes for Editors The Open Rights Group is a digital rights advocacy group based in the UK. It aims to increase awareness of digital rights issues, help foster grassroots activity and to preserve and extend civil liberties in the digital age.

For more information, contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7096 1079