UK Prime Minister David Cameron is hanging out in East London and yesterday says he admits that UK copyright laws are outmoded and that they’ve chilled innovation on the internet. He notes that a no-permission-needed approach generally proves much more successful and he wants to change UK law and their approach to industrial policy to reflect it.
Cameron had the following to say about tech in the USA: “Right now, Silicon Valley is the leading place in the world for high-tech growth and innovation, … But there’s no reason why it has to be so predominant. Question is: where will its challengers be? Bangalore? Hefei? Moscow? My argument today is that if we have the confidence to really go for it and the understanding of what it takes, London could be one of them. All the elements are here.”
One of the large barriers developers face in the UK is their often-restrictive IP laws. Laws in the area have no “fair use” provisions like the kind Cameron refers to. “The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain,” Cameron continued, “The service they provide depends on taking a snapshot of all the content on the internet at any one time and they feel our copyright system is not as friendly to this sort of innovation as it is in the United States. Over there, they have what are called ‘fair-use’ provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services. So I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America.”
This review of IP laws Cameron speaks of is being revealed by the Intellectual Property Office, due to be complete by 2011. This review will speak on “barriers to new internet-based business models, including the costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders” and “what the UK can 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.” Sounds neat, but also scary, if you ask me.