The UK government is proposing a massive “copyright land grab”, according to The Register, and the implications for authors and artists could be immense. The plan focuses on so-called ‘orphan works’, and seems set to allow a kind of compulsory purchase system whereby work can be used in certain conditions without compensation being paid to the owner. Here’s the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)’s page about the proposed changes.
The devil, as always, is in the detail. The gist of the government’s plan is that any agency would be able to licence work and it would be up to the creators of the work to ensure that they keep the agency up-to-date with their contact details in order to ensure that they are paid. In other words, it would become the responsibility of the creators of orphan works to go after their payments. Given the general tone of the debate over copyright in recent years, it might strike some observers as unusual that the UK government seems to be making it harder for some people to exercise their copyright while making it easier for others.
The problem for the UK government is that the proposals as they stand could be interpreted as incompatible with the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This is quite a big deal, and means that the UK could end up being wholly out of step with the international community when it comes to copyright. Click here for some really indepth analysis of the situation.