Overhaul of copyright law would boost GDP, says Hargreaves report

The UK's obsolete copyright laws are hurting innovation and should be overhauled to boost economic growth and make it easier for content and creative businesses to set up in the country, an independent report has recommended.

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The UK's obsolete copyright laws are hurting innovation and should be overhauled to boost economic growth and make it easier for content and creative businesses to set up in the country, an independent report has recommended.

The 123-page, government-commissioned report "Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth" by Professor Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University has suggested a raft of changes, some fundamental, other simple tweaks, to bring laws into line with the shifting realities of the digital age.

One of the most significant reforms is that the UK should set up the world's first '"Digital Copyright Exchange," an online copyright shop where rights holders and businesses could buy and sell licenses for work in a simple and legally clear way.

"It will make market transactions faster, more automated and cheaper. The result will be a UK market in digital copyright which is better informed and more readily capable of resolving disputes without costly litigation," said the report.

The government should also change the law to permit access to "orphan" works -- those restricted when one or more copyright holders cannot be located -- a move the report described as having "no economic downside."

Most popular of all, the report has urged reform of the long-ignored anomaly that stops consumers from legally copying files from a CD or DVD to an iPod or computer for their own use, a practice known as "format shifting," and currently legal under "fair use" provisions in many EU countries.

In the future, the government should balance the needs of consumers and non-rights holders more carefully with those of copyright holders, Hargreaves said, and for sound economic reasons. Copyright reform would give the UK a competitive advantage with the potential to add up to 0.6 percent to the country's annual GDP, the report said.

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