The future of copyright

The latest developments in copyright law - and implications for information professionals - were explored at a NetIKX/BIALL event.

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Copyright and information professionals

At a sell-out joint meeting of NetIKX and BIALL, two expert speakers (Charles Oppenheim and Emily Goodhand) explored recent developments in copyright law and discussed the consequent implications for the future of data information, data and knowledge management.

Charles Oppenheim is a NetIKX Emeritus Member and is a widely published and cited speaker on intellectual property rights Charles's talk was on recent trends in UK copyright including the Hargreaves Review and the Digital Economy Act 2010.

Some observers consider the US concept of 'fair use' as more flexible than the more tightly defined 'fair dealing', which they consider stifles growth and innovation in the UK.  Charles explained that the White Paper is expected soon and outlined what it could contain.  This might include exceptions for orphan works, on private copying (such as making mp3 files), for educational use, for parody/pastiche and quotes/blogs/social networking.  All of which sounded very positive and counter to the trend he observed which has been to strengthen the law in favour of rights owners and against users.

However, he urged caution.  The yet-to-be-implemented Digital Economy Act 2010 was inclined in the opposite direction. It is also likely that the implementation of the Hargreaves Review recommendations would be delayed and 'watered down'.  The idea that there should be a move to evidence-based policy (rather than lobbying) is already failing (Cliff Richard and other singers have argued successfully for an extension to the copyright of their recordings despite this being against all evidence on the impact on the economy).

Emily Goodhand (better known to many as @copyrightgirl),  covered international trends and recent cases. Emily has been listed in The Times as one of the top ten legal tweeters and holds the post of Copyright and Compliance Officer at the University of Reading, where she specialises in delivering workshops on copyright, developing policies and advising on a range of complex copyright and licensing issues. Emily started by putting the Hargreaves Review in its international context.  She discussed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act PIPA in the US, as well as the EU IPR Enforcement Directive and legislation in Spain and New Zealand. She then went on to discuss some cases including the judgement (Infopaq International A/S v Danske Dagblades Forening) that ruled that newspaper articles including headlines were literary works and that 11 words constituted a substantial part of the article which had implications for abstracting services. Her predictions for the future of copyright included an observation that there was growing momentum behind open access, a move towards greater balance and a 'licensing vision' with a portal bringing licensing solutions together.

Delegates expressed their concerns over abstracting and deep linking.  Other issues included barriers to access, the number of different licences and keeping up with changes in the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) excluded list.  The changes that would have the most impact on information professionals include those covering orphaned works, having a digital copyright exchange and contracts not being able to override copyright law.


Martin Newman is an information manager specialising in the heritage sector. He blogs at martininfoman.wordpress.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @MartinInfoMan.