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Possible delay to new UK private copying and parody rights

UPDATED: Plans to create a new private copying exception and rights to parody existing copyrighted works have not been cleared by a UK parliamentary committee tasked with scrutinising the reforms, Out-Law.com can reveal.08 May 2014

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI), which is scrutinising the technical and legal aspects of the proposed new copyright exceptions, will confirm in a report tomorrow that it has given its backing to just three of the five SIs which contain the draft changes to UK copyright laws.

A spokesperson for the JCSI told Out-Law.com that the three SIs are due to be considered at a meeting of the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee at the parliament on Monday. They said that they could not confirm why the JCSI had decided against backing the SIs on private copying and parody rights at this time.

In March the UK government laid out draft regulations that would, if backed by the parliament, update existing rules on exceptions to copyright from 1 June this year. The changes, which are contained in five separate SIs, would introduce new rights to copy copyrighted works for private use, related to archiving of copyrighted material and the use of such works in non-commercial research and educational settings, and to use copyright material in works of parody and in quotations, among other reforms.

On Wednesday Labour MP Iain Wright tweeted that the SIs containing the draft regulations on private copying and on the parody and quotation exceptions had been "withdrawn". However, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) told Out-Law.com that it remains committed to introducing the changes.

"The government remains committed to implementing the personal copying and parody exceptions to copyright law as soon as possible," a spokesperson for the IPO said. "The regulations have not been withdrawn."

It is not yet clear when the JCSI will approve the SIs on private copying and parody rights or whether they will need to be re-drafted to win the Committee's support.

However, earlier this week Viscount Younger of Leckie, the UK's parliamentary under secretary of state for intellectual property, said that should the copyright reforms not receive the backing of the parliament in time for the changes in the law to be introduced on 1 June that the "next window" for them to be brought into force would be October.

Viscount Younger was giving evidence to the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee (24-page / 170KB PDF) (LSLC), which along with the JCSI is also scrutinising the draft SIs on changes to copyright exceptions. The LSLC is also expected to report on the merits of the proposals on Friday.

In his evidence, Viscount Younger admitted that a number of stakeholders had been "really pushing" the UK government "to get on with [the reforms]". The changes to the law had been expected to be introduced in April.

David Willetts, a minister within the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), admitted in March that "technical changes" made to previous proposals on the exceptions following comments made during a previous public consultation on the reforms would be likely to delay those changes. The five SIs were then laid before parliament for scrutiny towards the end of March with a view to them coming into force on 1 June.

"It did, it is fair to say, take longer for the process to look at the five bundles [of copyright reforms in the SIs] in the latter stages," Viscount Younger said, according to a transcript of the evidence he gave to LSLC. "That led to us not being able to meet the April deadline. We then decided to go for 1 June, and that is purely on the basis that we had had such a long consultation and that certain stakeholders were really pushing us to get on with it, if I may put it that way. We thought we should do that and go for 1 June rather than delay further, until October, which would be the next window."

In a new statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Viscount Younger said: “The government welcomes the fact that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has concluded its consideration of three of the five copyright exceptions statutory instruments (SIs).  The public administration, disability, and research, education, libraries and archives SIs will all be discussed in parliament next week and subject to parliamentary approval will come into force on 1 June 2014.”

“The Committee has some questions about the private copying and parody exceptions that they would like to discuss with us. It is not unusual for the Committee to want to spend more time considering SIs, but it will have implications for the timetable given where we are in the parliamentary cycle. It is likely to mean these two SIs are implemented later than 1 June 2014. While this delay is disappointing for both the government and many of our stakeholders, the government remains firmly committed to implementing each of these important exceptions to copyright law as soon as possible,” he said.

Editor’s Note 08/05/2014: This story has been updated to include the latest statement issued by Viscount Younger on the progress of the copyright reforms.

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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