Longer online version

28/05/13

We have moderately convincing reassurance from the most senior relevant civil servants that they have no plans to add more to the Intellectual Property Bill.

Copyright a-go-go

Battle re-joined, again

REPORTS of the death of copyright have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, the ERR Act received Royal Assent on 25 April. No, the law hasn't changed yet: see below. Meanwhile, there's yet another Bill before Parliament. And those who would weaken copyright are seeking out unusual and unsuitable allies.

It's not dead, Jim

Alarmist messages were spread (mostly by one person) following the passage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Act. The reality is much more boring. Any publisher or broadcaster that wants to use a journalist's work must still ask, and negotiate a fee. In fact, nothing changes at all this year.

The Act allows the Minister to make "Regulations" that will, later, actually change the law on copyright.

The NUJ regrets that these powers were tacked on to the end of a rag-bag Bill, rather than having the separate debate they merit. The NUJ would have preferred to see more clarity in the Bill text that was debated, and less left to the Minister. But it could have been far worse, and some claims made about it stretch the truth to breaking point and beyond.

The NUJ, in co-operation with other organisations in the Creators' Rights Alliance, worked hard to remind Parliament, particularly the House of Lords, of the importance of fair payment for creators. Our checklist of commitments extracted from the Minister about safeguards for creators in the eventual changes to the law runs to six pages of small print. Boring - in the sense of posing the least possible threat to journalists' living - is the way we like it.

The NUJ continues to play an active and effective part in consultations on the eventual shape of the Regulations which will, notably, introduce licensing of "orphan works" and "extended collective licensing".

The union's Freelance Industrial Council has prepared a Frequently Asked Questions document on what effect the government's proposals would have.

Will there be much more of this?

So, even before the dust settled on that one, another comes along: the Intellectual Property Bill 2013 had its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 22 May.

The NUJ's briefing for Parliamentarians before that debate noted: "The biggest issue facing journalists in the The Intellectual Property Bill 2013 is: what further measures may the government introduce as it makes its way through Parliament?"

There's little, yet, directly affecting journalists. The NUJ will be proposing amendments in favour of stronger rights for designers, not least to avoid setting unfortunate precedents for copyright - especially in the area of the "exceptions" that allow use of works without permission or payment.

And we were told on 28 May that "within weeks" the government will publish its proposals for extending "exceptions" to copyright - rules that allow certain non-commercial uses without asking, or paying.

Freedom of expression and payment for expression

The anti-censorship group Article 19 on 25 April issued a statement entitled The right to share which declares that the rights that authors - such as reporters and photographers - have in their work exist "at the expense of freedom of expression". Notable among the signatories are officials of the UK Open Rights Group and Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottowa.

The International Federation of Journalists responded with an open letter to Article 19 Executive Director Agnès Callamard. It opens:

The IFJ has always valued the work Article 19 does to protect press freedom and denounce attacks against free speech around the world. Our organisations have teamed up on a number of occasions for joint protests, projects and statements and we fully recognise your constant support for freedom of speech and independent journalism.

A recent document produced by Article 19 has, however, raised concerns. It appears to argue that the defence of freedom of expression is in opposition to other journalists' fundamental rights, for which we have been campaigning for decades - and which we regard as fundamental to citizens' abilities not only to express themselves but for that expression to be informed by professional, independent reporting.

The full text is on the IFJ website.

To mock an author bird

Finally. Harper Lee, author of To kill a mocking-bird, is suing to get copyright in the book back , reports the Guardian. She alleges that the successor to her late agent tricked her into assigning her rights away.

Last modified: 28 May 2013; first posted 13 May 2013 - © 2013 contributors
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