Digital economy action

THE DIGITAL Economy Act was rushed through in April, with last-minute Conservative opposition ensuring that the Act lost its Clause 43, which would have affected creators' rights by introducing "extended collective licensing" and licensing of orphan works.

Throughout the passage of the Act, the Creators' Rights Alliance - which includes the NUJ - worked with organisations that are democratically representative of creators. We worked with Lords to assist drafting amendments to make the "moral" rights to be identified and to defend the integrity of our work available to all, including journalists, and enforceable, and to give creators the right to stay identified.

In the event they were proposed without a vote being forced, to get clarification. The government did put up amendments that clarified the proposals, partly addressing concern about what bodies could be authorised to grant licences, and on what would have to be done before a work could be declared "orphan".

This activity has put these issues on the political agenda more clearly than for decades. We are "all creators now. I create when I post on my website: you create when you post a note on your Facebook wall, we create when we tweet to each other." That was David Lammy, then Minister for intellectual property, at a March Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property meeting on moral rights. "Any artist puts not just effort but quite a lot of themselves into their work," he went on, concluding that "the huge endeavour which that artist has put in" is the reason "why moral rights are important." Sympathetic words indeed - though he acknowledged he wouldn't be Minister for long.

Were the proposed copyright provisions that failed to make the Act "the best compromise that could have been reached", as one CRA member, the Society of Authors, put it, "or a poor compromise mercifully avoided?" One thing is certain, the SoA (and the CRA) say: "the question of how to enable orphan works to be used legitimately, and how to license a limited range of digital rights more practically, have not gone away."

Now we have to ensure, through the promised consultations, that the sections that were included in the Act - notably the "internet throttling" powers - do not imperil freedom of expression.

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