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Gowers Review - AOP reaction

Andrew Gowers recently published the long-awaited Gowers Review of Intellectual Property (IP) law.

The Report argues that in the modern world, the UK's economic competitiveness is increasingly driven by knowledge-based industries, innovation and creativity, and says that intellectual property (IP) - protecting and promoting innovation - has never been more important.

Whilst the Review concludes that the UK has a fundamentally strong IP system, it recommends some reforms.

The UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) considers the findings of the Review broadly balanced but highlights areas of concern that should be addressed in the continuing debate.

AOP particularly welcomes that:

* The review has considered ways in which the system can better serve the interests of all concerned - consumers and industry;
* The review has stressed the need to work effectively against counterfeiting and piracy and has endorsed many of the recommendations put forward by the alliance against counterfeiting and piracy, with which the AOP is affiliated through the publishers licensing society;
* The recommendation that penalties for online copyright infringement match the penalties for physical copyright infringement with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment applying;
* The recommendation that costs of litigating IP rights be reduced for businesses large and small;
* The recommendation that the process for clearance of orphan works will be reviewed. However, what constitutes a "reasonably diligent" search for the copyright owner will need further debate with industry.

AOP is concerned that as yet unrealised weakening of copyright protections could result from some of the recommendations made in the review.

AOP suggests:

* That the existing regime for copyright exceptions is flexible enough to ensure that those who build on and develop ideas already in existence can ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ as Mr Gowers puts it;
* That any changes to rules on copyright exceptions be considered very carefully to ensure compliance with the recognised “three step test” which provides that exceptions and limitation should only be applied in certain special cases, should not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder;
* It is vital that those following up the review consider carefully the recommendations which would allow private copying for research to cover all forms of content, permitting libraries to make copies for archival and preservation (as opposed to access), and how, in an online world, such use “does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of rights holders”.

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