CMS Committee criticises copyright 'erosion'

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has criticised the Hargreaves Review's proposed changes to copyright in its newly issued report on the creative industries, "Supporting the Creative Economy".

The CMS report said the Committee, chaired by Conservative MP John Whittingdale, was "not persuaded that the introduction of new copyright exceptions will bring the benefits claimed and believe that generally the existing law works well." Far more detailed consideration was needed before any private copyright exception was introduced, it said, while the Committee "do not consider Professor Hargreaves has adequately assessed the dangers of putting the established system of copyright at risk for no obvious benefit."

The Committee also "strongly condemned" Google's response to copyright-infringing sites. "We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content," the report stated. "The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisory ineffective."

The report called for "a powerful champion of IP with a duty to protect and promote the interests of UK IP, to co-ordinate enforcement of IP rights in the UK and overseas, and to educate consumers on the value of IP and the importance of respecting IP rights." The Committee commented: "Logically the IPO [Intellectual Property Office] should take on this role. Yet too often it is seen as wishing to dilute copyright rather than defend and enforce it".

The Committee recommended an increase in the maximum penalty for serious online copyright theft to 10 years' imprisonment.

Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association said the CMS report – alongside the Copyright Licensing Steering Group's report into progress on the Copyright Hub, also released this week – pointed up "everything which is wrong with the government's policy on copyright."

Mollet said: "The CMS Committee report into the creative industries is strongly critical of the Hargreaves Review and subsequent government proposals to reform copyright. We fully agree with the Committee's view that the proposed reforms will not bring the benefits claimed and that further assessment and scrutiny is required. It has long been clear that the government's current direction of travel will undermine the strong economic success of the creative industries.

He added that the committee's critique of Google was "bang on the mark".

By contrast, the Copyright Hub progress report, Mollet said, "demonstrates what can and what will be achieved through licensing to tackle some of the problems arising with copyright in the digital environment. Such market-based solutions are a far better alternative than eroding copyright."