Industry sparks inquiry into UK copyright reform

Following 'a great deal of interest' from industry bodies, MPs have opened an inquiry into the Hargreaves copyright modernisation review and the government's acceptance of its recommendations

In response to industry pressure, MPs have begun an inquiry into the Hargreaves review of copyright laws and the government's plan to put its recommendations into force.

The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee called for new evidence on copyright modernisation on Tuesday, adding that members would also be combing through submissions that were made to the Hargreaves review. The inquiry follows prompting from rights-holder industry bodies, a spokeswoman for the committee told ZDNet UK.

"The committee members have heard a great deal of interest from industry bodies on Hargreaves and are keen to look into the review and the government response," a spokeswoman for the parliamentary select committee said on Wednesday. "The inquiry will focus on the workability of the recommendations, and on whether the broad direction being proposed is the right one and is comprehensive enough."

The government's decision on 3 August to go along with all of the suggestions in the review surprised many, including Hargreaves himself. Rights-holder groups responded tepidly to some of the proposals, particularly the introduction of copyright exceptions to allow private copying, parody works and data mining for research purposes.

Industry body UK Music said at the time that the government was wrong to introduce the private copying exception. This would let people copy music from CDs to iPods, without also putting a levy on blank CDs and equipment that can be used for copying. Elsewhere in Europe, this levy is added to such items and the money raised is distributed to artists to compensate them for theoretical financial losses that come about through copying.

The inquiry will focus on the workability of the recommendations, and on whether the broad direction being proposed is the right one and is comprehensive enough.

– Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

Hargreaves's Digital Opportunity report also called for the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE), which would be a clearing-house for rights holders and people who want to use copyrighted works. When the government accepted this recommendation, it made it clear that many details of a DCE system would still need to be worked out.

In its statement announcing the inquiry, the committee said it wanted those submitting evidence to the inquiry to make new points, rather than repeating what they said in their submissions to the original review. The deadline for the written submissions is 5 September.

The Open Rights Group (ORG), which was an enthusiastic supporter of Hargreaves's recommendations and the government's response, said it welcomed the opportunity to put forward more evidence for the reforms.

"We're looking forward to engaging with any of the upcoming consultations and inquiries and supplying evidence to show the decisions made were the right ones," ORG campaigner Peter Bradwell told ZDNet UK.

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