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Hargreaves: IP changes can boost economy

May 18, 2011

By Colin Mann

Changes to Intellectual Property systems could add up to £7.9 billion to the UK’s economy, the first report looking at how it can drive growth has suggested.

The publication of Digital Opportunity follows a six-month independent review of IP and Growth, led by Professor Ian Hargreaves. He was asked to consider how the national and international IP system could best work to promote innovation and growth.

His recommendations aim to give the UK a competitive advantage – and put it on a par with international competitors. Taken together, they have the potential to add up to 0.6 per cent to annual GDP and to cut the costs of doing business with IP-related business by £750 million within a decade.

The key recommendations are:

– The UK should have a ‘Digital Copyright Exchange’: a digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold, a sort of online copyright shop.
– The Government should legislate to permit access to orphan works, where the owner cannot be traced. For example some copyrighted works remain locked away because their authors either aren’t known or can’t be traced to give permission for use. In the worst cases, where one owner cannot be located – just one out of hundreds contained in a film or TV programme – they can effectively hold the interests of others to ransom as it becomes a criminal offence to exploit that work commercially.
– Updating what it is lawful to copy. This includes copying for private purposes (such as shifting music from a laptop to an mp3 player) and copying which does not conflict with the core aims of copyright – for example, digital copying of medical and other journals for computerised analysis in research. For example an academic working on malaria cannot draw on previous research through data mining because they cannot get permission to copy the datasets they need to mine.
– The Government’s IP policy decisions need to be more closely based on economic evidence and should pay more attention to the impact on non-rights holders and consumers;
– Changes to the Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) powers to enable it to help the IP framework adapt to future economic and technological change

Hargreaves said that in recent years, the UK had failed to make the changes needed to modernise copyright law, “for which we will pay an increasing economic price as we make our way into the third decade of the commercial Internet. My recommendations set out how the IP framework can promote innovation and economic growth in the UK economy. The recommendations of the review are designed to enhance the economic potential of the UK’s creative industries and to ensure that the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors is not impeded by our IP laws.”

Hargreaves holds the chair of Digital Economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and Cardiff Business School. He has held senior positions at the BBC, Financial Times, The Independent, and New Statesman. He was a founding non-executive board member of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) and an executive board member, and Director of Strategic Communications at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Responding to the report, Peter Bradwell, of Open Rights Group, said: “Professor Hargreaves has given us the design manual to a 21st century copyright policy. He shows that we can allow useful activities like new medical research techniques or parodies and maintain flourishing creative industries. This evidence-based blueprint should finally help government balance copyright in the interest of creators, consumers and innovators. It is vital they follow it.”

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