Stay vigilant on search diligence

ON THE copyright front we have one small piece of good news. The the government has withdrawn proposals to change how long copyright lasts in unpublished works. The Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, said that this was due to "genuine concerns about the negative potential negative impact on rights holders" and the lack of a "satisfactory legislative solution". Under existing law, certain unpublished works created before 1989 remain in copyright until the end of 2039. Libraries argued that this covered mediaeval correspondence. Musicians argued that the proposed change would play hell with their rights in demo tapes.

Building with copyright symbol on it: photo © Matt Salusbury

Hipsters should pay more attention to copyright - it is after all the lifeblood of so many. (This copyright symbol is actually part of a corporate logo of a music production company occupying part of this building on Dalston's Kinglsand Road.)

The Creators' Rights Alliance, of which the NUJ is part, is keeping an eye on Orphan Works licences granted since 1 October, and aims to check how "diligent search" for their authors is working. Up to the beginning of February, the government's Intellectual Property Office had received 15 applications, 5 commercial and 10 non-commercial. So far, 9 applications had been granted covering 195 works:1 commercial licence (for re-publication of books in digital format) and 10 non-commercial (for use in exhibitions, interactive learning resources and reformatting a classical piece of music using notation software). No applications have been refused to date, although one has been withdrawn.

We are asking you to help us keep an eye on the effect of the other changes that came into force on 1 October, particularly those affecting when words - and pictures - may be freely "quoted". As is almost always the case under the "common law" system, we don't know what the legislation means until it's been through the courts to at least Appeal level. When the legislation was being debated we pointed out that it was particularly vague and thus imposed a burden on creators to pay for cases.

We have not yet found any reason to revise our advice on when you as a journalist can quote others' work. Please alert us at to any cases you come across, or abuses that should be tested in court.

The big thing happening with copyright is the pressure being put on the European Union to change its authors' rights law. Back in November Andrus Ansip, the responsible Vice-President of the Commission, blogged his aim of "removing restrictions (and preventing new ones) and particularly to stop blocking of online consumers based on their location or residence. This will be about reforming copyright rules and getting rid of unjustified curbs on transfer and access to digital assets." He asked: "is there anyone who would not want to get rid of geo-blocking, which goes against the core principles of Europe's single market?" The answer is yes: for starters, film producers whose funding and licencing of subtitled versions would be royally fouled up. Thus opens a multi-year lobby-fest. We expect a communication from the EU Commission in May.

Last modified: 01 Mar 2015 - © 2015 contributors
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