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Government anticipates further delay to UK copyright reforms

The UK government has admitted that it is unlikely that changes to copyright laws will be introduced on 1 April as it had intended.13 Mar 2014

David Willetts, a minister within the UK government's department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), confirmed during a debate in the House of Commons earlier this week that there would be likely to be a delay in the delivery of the copyright reforms.

In December last year the government announced that changes to rules on exceptions to copyright would be come into force on 6 April 2014, although Willett's comments suggest that the 1 April was subsequently identified as the date on which the government intended the reforms to be delivered. According to a December 2012 report, the government's original timetable for the introduction of the new rules has slipped from its original target of October 2013.

The changes anticipated would introduce a new right to copy copyrighted material for private use; a new exception to conduct data analysis for non-commercial research; a new qualified right to quote copyright-protected content for purposes extending beyond criticism, review or news reporting, and a new limited right to use copyrighted material in a work of parody.

Following a consultation on the draft regulations that would deliver the new rules, Willetts announced on 6 March to the UK parliament that the government had made "a number of technical changes" to the draft regulations it had consulted on previously as a result of input received during the consultation.

At the time, Willetts said that the revised draft regulations were still in the process of being checked and confirmed that it would be at least two weeks before they would be laid before Parliament.

After concerns were raised by one MP about the delay to the delivery of the refoms, Willetts has now said he hopes the statutory instruments containing the proposed new exceptions to copyright will be laid before parliament next week. However, he conceded that it was likely that the rules – which still need the approval of both MPs and Peers before they can be introduced – would not be introduced on 1 April as was the intention.

"I think that things are reaching the stage where, arithmetically ... it will be hard to have the commencement date as 1 April," Willetts said. "We recognise that it might be some time shortly after 1 April. That will depend on how the timetable pushes out."

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Expertise in Copyright

Copyright is an extremely valuable, often unrecognised or misunderstood right which protects a whole range of original materials including written materials, software, artistic materials, music and dramatic works. It arises automatically without the need for registration in most countries and protects these materials from unauthorised copying. It is essential in business to identify such rights, ensure they are owned by the correct entity, properly protected, enforced and exploited.

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