Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A letter to my MP over the Court of Appeal’s NLA's decision

Dear Mr Buckland.

The British economy does not need more restrictions on its most successful sectors. The internet is delivering £100 billion a year to the UK economy and needs reasonable attention to protect the opportunity it brings our citizens.

Specifically, and in this case, I am writing following the Court of Appeal’s decision on the 27 July regarding ‘temporary copying’. The decision means that many UK citizens will unwittingly infringe copyright as they use the Internet.

This situation has arisen as a result of a judgement in Newspaper Licensing Authority Ltd. (NLA) v Meltwater Group and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). Further details can be found here (http://bit.ly/oqhEoX) but the principle on temporary copies extends far beyond this case.

The ruling is such that that the process of your constituent displaying a web page on screen would be considered in law as the same as making a copy, and that anyone browsing a web page is subject to such terms and conditions. Their display of such web pages in their home or place of work is potentially, terns sight unseen, contrary to the law. 

The legal position of your constituents is thereby compromised (and most frequently, in all innocence) and the consequence is not helpful in the interests of the UK's world leading, and economically significant)  position viz a viz the internet.

Owners of web sites have many ways in which they can protect content from even the most ardent hacker as many companies in your constituency can attest. 

In the lead up to this Decision, a number of newspaper proprietors have put themselves beyond normally acknowledged protection offered to your website-publishing constituents and local enterprises. Thus the proprietors seek special pleading and potentially at the expense of Swindon people and  businesses.

For some, there is a need to protect intellectual property and to gain reward for diligent, legal and honest effort invested in content. However putting the onus on users of the Internet to avoid infringing rights sight unseen is counter-intuitive and a threat to the free use and access of the internet.

One anticipates the Hargreaves Review (http://bit.ly/e7jPxQ) will consider this special pleading by media owners and no doubt you will have a constituency interest in his findings and how he will inform the Secretary of State for Business and Intellectual Property.

Professor Bently, Emeritus of Intellectual Property, Cambridge University is of a similar mind and expresses his view here: (http://bit.ly/r9F12U)  

One understands the dichotomy of Members and legislators attempting to keep up with technological advance. In this case, being sympathetic and attempting to give long established, decaying and desperate vested interests due hearing is necessary but need not undermine the legitimate work and play of your constituents.

In this case, browsing content online must fall within a temporary copy exemption and should not require a right-holder’s prior, sight unseen, consent for reasonable use. 

Your etc