After the fall out from the Government’s Pre-Budget Report, the IT industry is evaluating its response to the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property.
Many looking at IP issues and copyright infringement welcomed the report, but the music industry is not likely to be a chief advocate of its recommendations to policy and possibly law, as it came out in favour of making CD ‘burning’ legal.
The report included the suggestion that it should be made legal to ‘burn’ or copy CDs to music players or computers. It also supported current copyright terms for performance remaining unchanged as well as efforts towards a European-wide patent scheme.
Published a year after the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked former Financial Times editor and head of communications at Lehman Brothers, Andrew Gowers to conduct an independent review into the UK Intellectual Property Framework, he reported: "The ideal IP system creates incentives for innovation, without unduly limiting access for consumers and follow-on innovators.
“It must strike the right balance in a rapidly changing world so that innovators can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants. And it must take tough action against those who infringe IP rights at a cost to the UK's most creative industries.”
The Review set out a number of targeted, practical recommendations to deliver “a robust Intellectual Property framework fit for the digital age”. It recommended reducing the costs and complexity of the system and reform of copyright law to allow individuals and institutions to use content in ways consistent with the digital age.
Gowers found the music industry was losing as much as 20% of annual turnover to piracy and counterfeiting and called for new powers and duties for Trading Standards to take action against infringement of copyright law, as well as tougher penalties for online copyright infringement – with a maximum 10 years imprisonment.
It also recommends the UK Patent Office be restructured as the UK Intellectual Property Office, with recommendations for it to provide greater support and advice for businesses using IP domestically. And business representatives should sit on a new independent Strategic Advisory Board on IP Policy, advising the Government.
Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry backed the findings of the report and said his department will be putting together an implementation plan in coming weeks. In addition to an increase in infringement penalties, Darling said the new IP Office will manage a fast-track registration system for trade marks, and an accelerated grant process for patents aimed at companies operating in high-tech areas with fast and short lifecycles.
The Pre-Budget statement also pointed to coming tangible change, with the allocation of an additional £5m to Trading Standards in 2007-2008 to support the implementation of new powers and duties to tackle copyright infringement so that copyright law is effectively enforced.
An independent Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property policy will be established to raise the performance of IP policy-making. This Board will receive £500,000 from the soon to be renamed, Patent Office to commission research on emerging IP trends.
John Lovelock, The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) director general commented: "We are delighted with tenor of the review. What we demanded was a demonstrative display of government support to protect one of the most important industries in the UK today. This is clear necessity when you realise the creative industries as a whole employ over 2 million people and contribute over £11.4 billion to our balance of trade.”
He welcomed the recommendation that Section 107A, which gives trading standards officers the right to inspect suspect users’ IT systems, should be implemented, while the damages regime is being assessed.
“Of course there is still work to do,” added Lovelock. “Director liability and article 4 (representative rights) still haven’t been addressed, and it remains unclear how the costs and complexities of civil search and seizure remedies will be dealt with.”