U.K. to relax copyright laws

Gov't rejects plans to block rogue websites

The U.K. government announced measures to liberalize the country’s copyright laws on Wednesday.

It has rejected proposals to block websites that host copyright infringing material, following a review by local communications regulator Ofcom.

The issue was one of the items in last year’s Digital Economy Act rushed through by the outgoing Labour administration, which the new coalition government’s business secretary, Vince Cable, called cumbersome and unworkable. However, he said plans to close sites that offer pirated fare remain in the pipeline.

Rights holders can still use the courts, as was evident last week when the Motion Picture Assn. won an injunction requiring telco BT to block access to pirate film website Newzbin2.

The pol also confirmed that rules preventing people from making copies of CDs and DVDs for personal use, known as “format shifting,” were being dropped.

Although the law is widely ignored, it is illegal in Blighty to copy the contents of a CD or DVD onto an iPod or other digital player.

Cable said: “This brings the law into line with, frankly, common sense. A lot of this has to do with consumer freedom. We need to have a legal framework that supports consumer use rather than treat it as regrettable. We can’t say that businesses should embrace technology but say to consumers they can’t use technology for products they have paid for.”

However, making copies and sharing them online remains illegal.

Intellectual property laws involving parody, which are tougher in the U.K. than in the U.S., will also be relaxed to allow comedians, broadcasters and other content creators more creative freedom.

This would ensure that spoofs such as YouTube hit “Newport State of Mind” remain available to users.

Chris Marcich, the MPA’s prexy and managing director for Europe, Asia and the Middle East, said the org welcomed “assurances regarding better enforcement at home and abroad” but remained “concerned about a number of recommendations that could have a negative impact on the film industry, including format shifting for film.”

Cable was responding to a government-commissioned report on copyright law by Prof. Ian Hargreaves, chair of Digital Economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and Cardiff Business School. Hargreaves’ original report argued that the U.K.’s intellectual property laws were archaic and a barrier to innovation and economic growth in an online age.

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