19 May 2011
Professor Ian Hargreaves’ report “Digital Opportunity – A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth” was published on 18 May 2011. It concludes that laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth.
The Review followed an announcement by David Cameron in November 2011 that there should be an independent review into how the UK’s intellectual property system can better drive growth and innovation.
In particular, Hargreaves was asked to look at what the UK could learn from the US’s “fair use” rules covering the circumstances in which copyright material may be used without the rights-holder’s express permission. The US fair use exception is far more flexible and less rights owner friendly than the European approach to exceptions. Hargreaves has concluded that it would not be beneficial to introduce a “fair use” type exception. Quite rightly, he concluded that it was unlikely to be legally feasible in the UK, given our obligations under European law. Instead, he states that the UK can achieve many of the benefits of a fair use exception by adopting copyright exceptions already permitted under European law.