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Copyright Reform and Cockney Silicon Valley

The founders of Google recently said that they could never have founded the company in the UK as the copyright laws are far too restrictive.  David Cameron has taken this to heart announcing not only a planned shake-up of outdated coyright law but also the intention to turn the Olympic Village and parts of East London into a new silicon valley. 

There is always a  balance to be struck between, on the one hand, protecting and rewarding the investment of those who create new work and, on the other hand, not stifling the efforts of downstream and aggregating enterprises which feed off such creativity. In the UK we generally favour the interests of the copyright owner whereas in the US the ‘fair-use’ provisions enable the reproduction of copyright works for various purposes where such reproduction may be considered fair. These include criticism, comment, news reporting and research.

To some extent, the introduction of the “Fair use” doctrine in the UK would do little more than legitimise what is already widespread and what many see as harmless. For example, it would enable those who have bought a CD to format shift the content to an MP3. Parodies such as the “Newport” Welsh rap version of Empire State of Mind by Jay Z and Alicia Keys, a song about New York would no longer be actionable removing the legal threat hanging over websites such as YouTube vulnerable if they ignore “cease and desist” demands. 

 I anticipate a long-running and bitterly fought battle between the libertarians and the defenders of copyright with lobbyists and lawyers already lining up on each side.

 For further information, please contact Simon Halberstam at simon.halberstam@smab.co.uk or on 020 3206 2781.