6 December 2006
Hubert Best, partner at media law firm Best & Soames and legal advisor on the FOCAL International Executive has commented on the publication as follows:
The Gowers report comments that "global markets must contend with rights that remain largely national in scope". This is especially true in the digital world. Andrew Gowers's proposal would bridge a gulf which divides US from European copyright law by proposing introduction of a "fair use" exception to copyright - i.e. allowing creative, transformative or derivative uses of a work without the owner's consent or any payment.
Many postings on YouTube and other "user generated content" which use commercial music videos and films without permission, or any payment to right holders, would thus be legitimate.
This would be a revolution in UK copyright law, in which "fair dealing"
exceptions to copyright are strictly circumscribed, restricted mainly to criticism and reporting the news.
This change cannot be made, under present European law, which Gowers recognises would also need to be changed.
This change would be even greater for mainland European authors' right laws, such as in France and Germany, where the concept of "fair dealing"
or "fair use" does not exist at all.
All this would be a move in completely the opposite direction from the last decade's European copyright harmonisation, in which exceptions to copyright have been progressively restricted.
Gowers also proposes introduction of a private copying exception. "Place shifting" digital copies of music and films without further payment would become legitimate. This would bring the UK into line with Scandinavian countries. [end of comment]
Hubert's contact details:
Hubert Best, Partner
Best & Soames
Mobile: +44 (0)7956 339 894
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7014 3526
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7014 3527