Ideas wanted for the future of copyright | 21 May 09

COMPANIES and entrepreneurs working in the creative, digital media, arts and IT industries need to make themselves heard to help shape the future of copyright and intellectual property, according to a leading law firm.

Experts at Ward Hadaway, which works with a wide range of cutting-edge companies and innovators, say a major shake-up in the intellectual property sector is on its way and that those involved in the sector have an unprecedented opportunity to help decide what happens.

Alex Shiel of Ward Hadaway

Alex Shiel (pictured), partner and head of intellectual property and IT at Ward Hadaway, said: “Technological change has meant that it is now possible to distribute content to millions of people across the world at the touch of a button.

“At the same time, trends such as open source programming and online collaboration have eroded traditional concepts surrounding the protection and exploitation of ideas.

“As a result, many organisations which oversee intellectual property rights and copyright issues are having a fundamental rethink of the way in which these rights are governed and enforced.

“Many are putting out ideas to public consultation and this gives anyone involved with IP and copyright an unprecedented opportunity to have their say in the future shape of what is a vitally important industry.”

Organisations appealing for ideas include the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) – the Government body responsible for Intellectual Property (IP) rights – which is looking for feedback on its new copyright strategy.

This is looking at ways to ensure that creators of original work can protect that work without blocking access to fresh ideas and stifling creativity.

In a similar vein, SABIP (the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy), which advises the Government and the IPO on intellectual property matters, is carrying out research into key areas of copyright issues before making policy recommendations to Ministers.

As part of this work, it says that it wants to “stimulate debate” amongst people affected by copyright issues and encourage comments on its work.

The fundamental question it is looking at is whether the shift to a digital economy must lead to an overhaul of the copyright framework or whether innovation in the current framework will bring about better results.

The taxman is also looking at how intellectual property is treated in the UK tax system.

HM Revenue and Customs is reviewing the taxation of intellectual property and how it can be changed to stimulate more innovation.

In a statement, HMRC said: “The Government will consider the evidence for changes to the way the tax system encourages innovative activity and the relative attractiveness of the UK to global firms as they make decisions on where to locate their R&D and other innovation activities.

“Working with representatives across the business community, the Government will examine the balance of taxation of innovative activity, including IP.”

HMRC has said it will consult with industry before making proposals for the next Pre-Budget Report, due in the autumn.

As well as the Government, the Opposition are also looking to reshape the creative sector.

The Conservative Party has brought in former BBC director general Greg Dyke to head a review of the creative industries in the UK.

The review, which will completed by the autumn, will look at issues including how to make the UK a global leader in content creation, developing a next-generation broadband network, and ensuring the survival of the UK’s local media.

Alex Shiel said: “Taken together, these reviews represent a fantastic opportunity for companies and individuals in creative, design and other industries to have a say in the future direction of intellectual property and copyright.

“One thing is for certain – change is definitely on its way. It is up to businesses and individuals whether or not they want to help shape the nature of that change.”

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