Andrew Gowers, former editor of the Financial Times, has spent the last year heading up a committee looking into intellectual property laws in the UK. The final report was made public today, and it offers 54 policy recommendations to the government. As is usually the case when someone tries to balance the rights of producers and consumers, everyone will find something to gripe about here, but there’s also a lot to like for both groups.
Something for consumers…
Two of the most important recommendations come right up front. The report suggests that the European Commission keep the current 50-year copyright term for sound recordings, which the recording industry hopes to see extended to 95 years. In a related recommendation, the report also suggests that intellectual property rights should not be changed retroactively, something that has been done in the US on multiple occasions.
The BPI (Britain’s version of the RIAA) was predictably unhappy with the decision, and said in a statement that they intend to keep up the fight for 95-year copyrights. "As Mr. Gowers says, the decision on extension is ultimately for the European Commission and we will be putting our case vigorously when it reviews the relevant directive next year," said Peter Jamieson, the BPI chairman.
But the BPI was pleased by another recommendation that will also be good news to UK consumers: a private copying exception that will allow for legal format shifting. Currently, ripping legally-purchased CDs and dumping them onto an iPod can result in prosecution, though the BPI has made clear it will not go after such people.