U.K. looks to revamp copyright laws

Policy review recommends loosening of controls

Radical changes to U.K. copyright laws that would make it easier for local performers and content platforms to create legal YouTube-style parodies are recommended in a report commissioned by the government.

But the 123-page report, the results of a five-month review, falls short of suggesting that Blighty adopts U.S.-style “fair use” rules on copyrighted material, which allow significant parts of a film or song to be replicated without infringing copyright.

“Digital Opportunity, A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth,” by media exec-turned academic, Ian Hargreaves, recommends a number of measures designed to turn the U.K. into a global hub for innovative digital content companies handling music, film and video games.

It said Blighty’s tough copyright laws were archaic and inappropriate for the Internet age.

The report called for the creation of an agency by 2012 to mediate between those wanting to license music, film and other digital content, and rights owners.

Hargreaves said, “My recommendations set out how the intellectual property framework can promote innovation and economic growth in the U.K. economy.

“They are designed to enhance the economic potential of the U.K.’s creative industries and to ensure that the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors are not impeded by our intellectual property laws.”

While the report conceded that the U.K. creative industries need to be protected from illegal downloads, it said that reliable data about scale and trends was scarce.

As for adopting the U.S. policy of “fair use” on copyright, Hargreaves said that was “unlikely to be legally feasible in Europe.”

The report was nicknamed the Google review after Prime Minister David Cameron questioned whether, under the U.K.’s archaic copyright laws, the Internet giant would have been able to start up in the country.