05 June, 2014

The United Kingdom (Finally) Updates its Copyright Exceptions

After what seems like a long year after first touching on the new recommended changes to the United Kingdom's ageing Copyright, Designs and Patents Act's exceptions, the UK government has taken its first steps to modernize its copyright scheme. Although only certain provisions will have come into force on June 1st, more specifically ones relating to research and private study, text and data-mining, education and teaching, archiving and preservation, public administration and accessible formats for disabled people, some will remain for further Parliamentary consideration. These are provisions dealing with personal copies for private use, caricature, parody and pastiche and quotation. Below I shall endeavor to expand more on the changes, and to elaborate more on the up-and-coming changes as well.

Research and Personal Study, Education, Libraries, and Archives

Although the provision for personal research and study has existed for a while, it severely limited the provision nonetheless, and merited expanding. What the now in-force Copyright and Rights in Performances (Research, Education, Libraries and Archives) Regulations 2014 does is extend the scope of the provision, allowing for the use of broadcasts, films and sound recordings to be included which were omitted prior to the Regulations' introduction. This is a sensible change as leaving out these other mediums would hinder research endeavors, especially when the copying of digital versions of such works is easier than ever.

Aaron was excited for these changes - a bit too excited
The Regulations also extend the copying capabilities of libraries and archives, while adding educational institutions and museums to copy for the sake of their educational purposes. This is important as before museums and galleries for example, would have infringed copyright in the event that they made copies of works for their displays. In addition to allowing for the copying of newer types of works, the Regulations make express provisions for their use in dedicated displays in these institutions. This clearly aims to further legitimate educational purposes without the hindrance of copyright in doing so. Libraries also are given more express liberties in the distribution and replacement of works within their collections, and allows for librarians to make copies of copyrighted works for individuals for research and study needs within certain limits.

Copying for educational purposes is furthered by the new Regulations as well by creating a new exception for "Illustration for instruction". What this new exception allows is fair dealing for the purposes of education or instruction through newer, more modern means, unlike the current exception which only allows for this when copied by hand. The Regulations also allow for the copying of broadcasts and their distribution for educational purposes, further paving way for more modern, interactive learning methods such as distance learning or e-lectures. Educational institutions are also permitted to copy and distribute copyrighted works to their students and staff, provided only a maximum of 5% of the work is copied, and if the works are distributed via electronic methods, the communication has to be secure. Overall the Regulations clearly further education in the 21st century context, and allow for more effective, robust teaching even when not at University.

Public Administration

Change are made to how public bodies can utilize and distribute copyrighted content through the Copyright (Public Administration) Regulations 2014. The Regulations enable public bodies to copy and distribute copyrighted materials for the purpose of public inspection, and for those bodies to potentially distribute such works for the purposes of dissemination, provided the works are not commercially available. According to the Intellectual Property Office these changes are meant to "...enable more public bodies to proactively share some third party copyright material online, such as material submitted by an individual or business for the purpose of maintaining a public register". This is a significant improvement, as previously these bodies could have only distributed copyrighted works in paper form physically, and not digitally.

Disability Access

Little Horace was already busy making use of the changes
Copyrighted content is made more accessible to people with disabilities, potentially preventing them from accessing or utilizing copyrighted content in their original forms. The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Disability) Regulations 2014 allow for individuals to make personal copies of works in a format which would allow them to enjoy those works should their disability prevent them from doing so, such as making an electronic copy of a book if you are blind for use through screen readers. In addition to giving individuals this right the Regulations also allow for appropriate bodies to make such copies and to supply those to any person's who might need them. Clearly this significantly extends access to copyrighted content for people with disabilities, and fulfills a need which has been neglected under copyright legislation for quite some time.

Personal Copies, Parodies and Quotation

As said above, Regulations pertaining to copies made for private use, parodies and quotation are still under Parliamentary consideration. In a statement made by Intellectual Property Minister Lord Younger, the reason for the delay of these exceptions is purely because there are still "...some questions about the private copying and parody exceptions that [the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments] would like to discuss with us". This process will delay the introduction of these instruments until at least October 2014.

What the up-and-coming Copyright and Rights in Performances (Personal Copies for Private Use) Regulations 2014 will allow is for the copying of copyrighted works for personal use, provided that the person owns a copy of these works prior to making the new copies. This would include both physical and digital copies which have been bought or gifted to the owner, and excludes any borrowed or rented copies and any streams or broadcasts. This is by far the most needed exception in today's world, and would allow for individuals to make copies of works and to take them with them in a more suitable format. This could be the burning of a CD onto a physical disc for taking with you on a drive, or the ripping of a CD onto your computer and then copying it onto your MP3 player.

Finally, the Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014 would allow for the quoting of copyrighted content for any purpose, so long as the content being quoted is available to the public and is not quoted beyond the needs of the work in which it is quoted. This extends the ability to use such content for a wider amount of purposes, and not just for criticism, review and news report as under the current exceptions. In addition the Regulation would add a new exception for parody purposes, something which has been lacking in the UK regime for quite some time.

All-in-all the new changes to the current scheme are welcomed and needed, albeit the delay with personal copying, quotation and parody is regrettable. As the world in which we use copyrighted content has changed, so should the law, and this is its first steps into the 21st century.

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