IPO explains how government will resolve complaints about rights holder technical restrictions on lawful copying

Out-Law News | 05 Nov 2014 | 5:25 pm | 2 min. read

Universities, research bodies and other organisations that want to benefit from "an eligible copyright exception" but are prevented from doing so because the works they wish to copy are subject to technological protection measures (TPMs) can now raise a complaint with the UK government.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said that rights holders are entitled to use TPMs to prevent copying of their copyrighted works, but that individuals and organisations should also not be unreasonably prevented from making copies of copyright works subject to TPMs where the law gives them the right to make those copies.

Under a new complaints process, individuals and organisations will be able to ask the government to force rights holders to allow them to make copies of copyrighted material subject to TPMs that they otherwise have lawful access to and where they are entitled to make further copies of the material under UK copyright laws.

In new guidance issued about the complaints process (8-page / 128KB PDF), the IPO said organisations should seek to resolve their complaint directly with rights holders before lodging a complaint through its new complaint process.

It said that the UK government would decide the outcome of complaints that cannot be settled on the basis of a number of factors.

"The law states that copyright owners are able to adopt measures that limit the number of copies of a work that can be made and this complaints process is not intended to undermine this; it is about making sure that you can, personally, make use of the content that you already own in a reasonable way," the IPO said. "It is important to understand, therefore, that the complaints process won’t be a way to get unlimited copies of a copyright work or to make unauthorised copies for other people (such as members of your family or friends)."

"The secretary of state may take other factors into account when deciding on the outcome of a complaint and these will vary depending on the details of any particular case. For example, the secretary of state would not want to impose a large and disproportionate burden on business and undermine the ability of the creative industries to produce the content we all enjoy. Equally, the secretary of state will also want to ensure that the benefits of the exceptions can be realised."

For example, it is right that an archive that is seeking to preserve the cultural life of the nation by holding (securely) copies of works should not be restricted from doing so by TPMs," the IPO said. "The secretary of state may also wish to consider what a user could have reasonably expected to be able to do when they purchased or were given the work."

New exceptions to copyright were introduced into UK law earlier this year.

Under some of the changes, schools, colleges and universities can now make copies of radio or TV broadcasts for a non-commercial educational purpose without infringing copyright. Similarly, the act of copying and using extracts of copyrighted material by educational establishments "for the purposes of instruction for a non-commercial purpose" is also now permitted. In both cases, copiers must generally make a sufficient acknowledgment of the original work.

Copying content from online journals or other texts for the purposes of non-commercial research is also no longer an infringement of UK copyright laws providing copiers have lawful access to that content and they, generally, make "a sufficient acknowledgement" of the original work.

Individuals have also been given a new right to make private copies of copyrighted material they lawfully own. The IPO said there were additional factors that the UK government would consider should complaints be raised about TPMs that prevent individuals from making a private copy of works.

"If you are seeking to make a personal copy for your own private use, the secretary of state is required by law: to take account of the right of the copyright owner to limit the number of personal copies which may be made; and to consider whether there are already available in the market, on reasonable terms, versions of the work that do provide personal copies or allow users to make them," the IPO said in its new guidance.