Authors’ rights for all!

THE NUJ is slaving to get a submission in to the review of copyright law announced in December - having been granted a whole three days extra time, until 4 March. Alarmingly, commentators, and even members of the inquiry team, continue to talk about a change in UK law to allow "fair use" of your copyright works.

As we see it, "fair use" in US law is a general principle: which sounds fine until you realise that this means others will use your works claiming "fair use", but neither of you know whether it is "fair use" until you've taken them to court. The UK's law on "fair dealing" is a set of explicit, defined permitted uses, such as making Braille copies or archiving in libraries, and as such complies with international and European law.

Meanwhile in Europe, a Comité des sages - translated as a "reflection group" but literally "committee of wise ones" has reported on copyright law and digital libraries. You can read the whole 45 pages via

They start with what seems more than the obligatory nod to the importance of authors' rights: their goals include: "To make sure that the creators and all those working to produce and broadcast their work can enjoy the fruits of their labours and that creativity can blossom without hindrance."

The catch is that the Comité proposes that "some form of registration should be considered as a precondition for a full exercise of rights." They realise that this would require a change in the international law of the Berne Convention, which would take decades even if it were possible.

The European Federation of Journalists met with Michel Barnier, head of the EU civil service department responsible for authors' rights, on 24 January. He opened by assuring the representatives that he was determined to protect authors' rights and particularly those of journalists, given our essential role in underpinning and holding to account democracy itself. So that rather pre-empted the presentation. The EFJ will be pointing out, among more detailed points, that registration is incompatible with the new reality that authors' rights are now clearly necessary to every citizen who posts their work online, which is probaly most people now.

Meanwhile, UK communications regulator OFCOM announced on 1 February that it will review the part of the Digital Economy Act 2010 that allows for cutting off websites facilitating so-called "piracy" of copyright works. And the application by internet service providers TalkTalk and BT for judicial review of the whole set of "anti-piracy" provisions was scheduled to be heard on 22 March.

Last modified: 13 Feb 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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