Gowers Review

December 6, 2006

The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property is published today as part of the UK’s pre-Budget report, and is now available as a downloadable pdf from the Treasury website (which, it must be said, is a joy to use, right down to the lovely red box favicon).

The Gowers review is a year-long independent review of intellectual property rights in the United Kingdom commissioned by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and lead by former FT-editor Andrew Gowers. It’s the first action in some time on Britain’s somewhat untypical copyright laws, and is particularly interesting when various parties are seeking to increase the UK term of copyright, introduce stronger DRM measures in their products, and potentially to enforce rules that mean all music on iPods is currently illegal.

Many of the recommendations seem promising:

  • “introducing a limited private copying exception, which will allow consumers to format shift legitimately purchased content, for example music from a CD to an MP3 player” – or indeed, ebooks from PC to reader.
  • “proposing an ‘orphan works’ provision to the European Commission. This will make it easier for creative artists to re-use ‘orphan’ copyright protected material (for which no author can be found), thus unlocking previously unusable material” – including books which have remained out of print due to contested copyright [example].
  • “The European Commission should retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights at 50 years.” – particularly interesting, and a conclusion reached after comparison with US law which, while it gives sound rights up to 75 years, has not made any noticeable difference to the creative industries.

For more discussion of the issues involved, see Tom Coates’ thoughts at plasticbag.org.

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