Breakthrough in copyright law reform confirmed

Houses of Parliament

20 years of hard work by our sector has resulted, at last, in the recognition that copyright laws are out of kilter with the digital age and many of the activities taking place across our libraries, archives, museums and educational establishments, need to be supported by fit for purpose exceptions.

This will create legal certainty and achieve a better balance between creators' rights and user needs, and in doing this make copyright itself stronger.

Westminster approval

The new exceptions to copyright that have just been through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, will gain royal assent in June.

They herald a new era where our colleagues across the cultural heritage and educational sectors can at last provide measured and reasonable access to important works from our collections  (including sound and film) without risk of infringements.

As part of the Hargreaves Review of IP recommendations, they mean that copyright change for the better, has come into fruition.

Working for reform

The journey to where we are today has been long but we are there at last.

Those involved from our sector who have worked tirelessly to bring about copyright reform are far too numerous to list and thank but include LACA members past and present, CILIP, colleagues from the British Library and Wellcome Trust past and present, education, research, museums and other cultural heritage organisations.

We represent different sectors and interests, but the need and will to achieve better laws, have been unanimous across the sector.

What will change?

These vital changes include:

  1. Much needed digital preservation exceptions to prevent the loss of vital sound recordings, film, as well as text based works.
  2. Allowing the digitisation of analogue collections and their use on dedicated computer terminals on the premises of libraries, archives and museums.
  3. New educational exceptions to support teaching, learning and research.
  4. An expansion of the fair dealing exceptions for private study or non-commercial research purposes to cover not just text, as is the case today but sound and film also.
  5. Amendments to Library Privilege so that publicly accessible not for profit libraries can make fair dealing copies on behalf of their users from all copyright works. It is great to see that for many of these education and research exceptions it is recognised that sound and film have equal importance in an education and cultural context as text based materials.
  6. A new text and data mining (TDM) exception which will dramatically boost non commercial research. In an era of “big data”, research must be supported by allowing organisations and individuals, who have legal access already to copyright materials, to extract facts and data contained therein on a large scale. This new exception will provide unlimited opportunities to support vital research leading to new discoveries and greater innovation.
  7. Copying into accessible formats for readers who are disabled in any way will be allowed, putting all citizens on a level pegging with the able-bodied. (Currently the law only allows copying for the visually impaired.)
  8. Vitally, many of these core “permitted acts” in copyright law given to us by parliament will not be able to be overridden by contracts that have been signed. This is of vital importance, as without this provision, existing and new exceptions in law could subsequently simply be overridden by a contract. Also many contracts are based in the laws of other countries (often the US). This important provision means that libraries and their users no longer need to  worry about what the contract allows or disallows but just apply UK copyright exceptions to the electronic publications they have purchased.

LACA and our colleagues will continue to work with the Intellectual Property Office and HM Government to support them implementing the new proposed exceptions for personal copying and copying for Parody/Quotation purposes.

CILIP and the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance advocate for a fair and balanced copyright framework which respects the rights of copyright holders whilst placing equal value on the importance of users’ liberties.

What are your thoughts on the proposed changes to copyright law?

Let us know in the comments section.


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The photo, "The British Parliament and Big Ben in the early evening" by **Maurice**, is used under Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 license.


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