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Copyright law changes outlined by the Government

Media outlets will have a new right to make limited use of quotes published by rival news organisations under changes to copyright law proposed by the Government.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has published draft new legislation which would see a number of new exceptions to copyright introduced into law. One of the new exceptions would alter the scope of the exception that currently enables extracts of copyrighted material to be re-used for the purposes of criticism, review or news reporting.

Under the new quotation exception (3-page / 74KB PDF) that has been proposed, organisations would be able to re-use copyrighted material for purposes other than criticism, review or news reporting, subject to a number of other conditions.

Quotes could be re-used "for purposes such as criticism or review" without infringing copyright if the material has already been made public, providing, generally, that the original source is attributed, and that the use is in line with the established principle of "fair dealing". The use of a quote would not be said to 'fair dealing' unless it is used "in accordance with fair practice" and where "the extent of the quotation" is necessary for "the specific purpose which it is required".

Businesses would be unable to draft contracts to restrict or prevent others exercising their right to re-use quotes as the contract terms would be deemed unenforceable, according to the proposed new law.

"The exception permits the use of a quotation from a work for purposes such as criticism and review," the IPO said in its consultation paper. "In one dimension this slightly narrows the current criticism and review exception by permitting use only for the purpose of quotation. In another it slightly widens it by allowing such quotations to be used for purposes other than, but similar to, criticism and review."

The Government had previously outlined its intention to "create a more general permission for quotation of copyright works" late in 2011 in its response to a consultation it ran on "modernising" UK copyright laws. At the time it said that the new exception would allow for "minor uses of copyright materials, such as references and citations in academic papers, quotation as part of educational activities and short quotations on internet blogs or in tweets ... as long as they are fair".

A new "narrow" private copying exception (4-page / 82KB PDF) has also been proposed by the Government. The right would allow individuals to make a copy of "lawfully acquired" copyrighted content for "private use" and for non-commercial purposes. However, individuals would be prohibited from copying material and transferring it to others whilst rights holders would be able to use "technological copy protection measures" to prevent private copying from taking place, under the proposed regime.

"The exception aims to align the law with behaviour most people consider to be reasonable, to remove unnecessary regulation, and to help build confidence in and respect for copyright," the IPO said.

The Government has also outlined proposed new laws that would create a limited right to use copyrighted material in a work of parody. (2-page / 66KB PDF) Under the proposals creative groups would be able to use copyrighted works "for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche" to the extent that their use of the work can be categorised as 'fair dealing'.

"By making this a fair dealing exception authors of original work will be protected from abuse of this exception," the IPO said. "We do not want this exception to be used as a defence for outright copying of an original work."

The precise scope of the right to parody is likely to be further fleshed out by a ruling by the EU's highest court.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been asked by a Belgian court to determine whether "parody" is an independent concept in European Union law and if so, what particular threshold requirements or characteristics must be satisfied in order for a work to be classed as a parody. 

The IPO is seeking comments on the questions before the CJEU by 12 June.

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