Cameron’s copyright plans face battle with lobbyists

Prime Minister David Cameron will have a battle on his hands to implement copyright law changes that he hopes will spark technology innovation in the UK, according to rights campaigners.

Cameron's copyright plans face battle with lobbyists

As part of his plans to turn East London into the second coming of Silicon Valley, Cameron promised changes to copyright laws that would bring them into line with US intellectual property rules.

“The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain,” Cameron said. “Over there, they have what are called ‘fair-use’ provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services.”

Fine intentions, but getting changes in the law through Parliament will be another matter, according to Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, who said entertainment industry lobbyists could put a spanner in the works.

“There needs to be a real political will to stand up to the lobbyists and push this through if it isn’t to turn into just hot air,” said Killock, adding that the publishing industries had previously scotched proposed changes.

“When the Labour Government proposed more flexibility in the Gowers Review, lobby groups like the BPI, IFPI and MPA said each change would threaten their economic interests, and levies on equipment like computers might be needed to compensate them.”

“Fair use” is welcomed by consumers and developers, on the other hand, because it gives them more rights on what they do with digital content they have purchased. Technically, under current copyright laws, seemingly innocent acts such as format shifting from CDs to MP3s are illegal.

The fact that the Government had brought out the big guns to promote the proposals was a promising sign, Killock said, but he didn’t expect the entertainment giants to take any changes lying down.

Even if the Government denied the lobbyists and pushed through legislation in the UK, there is a fear that European law may prevent it taking effect. According to Killock, EU copyright does not allow a general, US-style “fair use” provision.

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