back to article Parliamentary committee suspends intellectual property rights inquiry

A parliamentary committee has dropped its inquiry into the Digital Economy Act (DEA) and whether it is the right mechanism to protect copyright on the internet. The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said that it was taking its decision in light of ongoing court action surrounding the controversial UK law. …


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  1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Orpan works

    The review will also include recommendation to free up access to "orphan works", where the original rights-holder cannot be contacted, according to the Treasury report.

    Does this mean that if I write to SONY BMG and they do not get back to me, then the works become "orphan" ?

    However I'm not sure that this will make up for the companies that deliberately remove the copyright information from photographs and then claim that the rights-hold cannot be contacted (e.g. BBC)

    1. Turtle

      It seems to me. . .

      It seems to me that this "Orphan Works" gambit is simply a way to strip copyright protection from everyone except the largest companies, with risk of having one's copyrighted work violated by fraudulently being labeled "orphan" increasing as the size of the copyright-owning entity decreases, with individual artists, not associated with large media companies, essentially being instantly expropriated by anyone who wants to use their work for free.

      But then, isn't that really why the whole so-called "Orphan Works" problem has been created? - to give Google and other kleptocratic tech companies the ability to use whatever they want, at no cost to them? Correct answer: Yes.

      I would be interested to know if there are any proposed penalties for falsely declaring a work "orphaned", or did Hargreaves not think that this could possibly happen? Or even a procedure that must be gone through before a work is declared an "orphan". No? Is the omission by oversight, or design, one has to wonder.

      There may be laws more open to abuse than this, but I can't think of any. . .

      1. Anonymous Coward

        It's not quite as bad as you paint

        The idea of an orphan work is that either the copyright holder no longer exists or their identity is not known and a reasonable effort has been made to identify it.

        That last point is the rub of course: how to define reasonable.

        For this to function, some independent authority would have to be appealed to to declare the work orphan. It would work in a similar fashion to the patent office, and we all know how well that works. :)

        To be honest though, the whole idea of copyright is to allow a reasonable monetisation of a work by the author or their agent. If they're not using the work, then there is not much point in the copyright being enforced and the work should fall to the public domain. I might also suggest that, like trademarks, you should have to defend the copyright, such as by monetising it in some form. Sitting on a work that is no use to you should not be permitted.

        It was never intended that copyright should be used to restrict the use of the work in other respects such as banning it from use by an organisation that you don't like. That is a fairly recent abuse of the copyright idea.

        1. PT


          Surely the problem of "orphan works" could easily be solved by returning to the old system where the copyright holder has to file for an extension of copyright after, say, seven years, and every seven years after that. Then works still of value to the copyright holders could be protected effectively in perpetuity, and other works where they can't be bothered would enter the public domain in a more timely fashion. I can't imagine why the content industry would object to this, though I'm sure they would.

        2. Turtle

          How Crass Can A Legal Theory Be?

          I am fully aware of the ostensible purpose and justification of the attempts to "reform" copyright so as to remedy the so-called "orphan works problem". I regard it as dishonest.

          You, on the other hand, seem not to be perspicacious enough to look beyond the "orphan work problem" rhetoric.

          However, the statements you use to frame the situation are themselves dishonest:

          "To be honest though, the whole idea of copyright is to allow a reasonable monetization of a work by the author or their agent." Nothing "honest" in this statement! I have NEVER heard nor read of any copyright theory (at least, prior to Google buying themselves various venal academicians) that states that the benefits meant to be enjoyed by copyright holders are limited to "reasonable monetization". Perhaps you would care to inform us as to what degree of monetization must be reached for that monetization to become "unreasonable" and the work to lose its copyright protection. Or how much that work has to earn in order to be entitled to copyright protection in the first place!!

          As for your ideas that a copyright holder should have to defend their copyright, or be obligated to anything at all with it, they reveal you to be either a shill or a dupe of the tech companies who are attempting to free themselves from the obligation to pay for content. Having created something and obtained a copyright, you want the creator to now spend the rest of his life having to defend his right to be protected by that copyright. He needs to keep heaven only knows whom constantly apprised and informed of his whereabouts and ways to contact him. And he must be prepared to legally contest any number of fraudulent (or even mistaken) "orphan declarations" in who knows how many jurisdictions - a task that would quickly bankrupt most copyright holders. In the end this would only play into the hands of large media conglomerates, as being the only entities that could possibly monitor both the internet, and all legal jurisdictions, for improper uses of the "orphan declaration", and then contest them.

          In fact, it is easy to imagine Google or similar thieves setting up (many) entities with the specific task of declaring works to be "orphans" - and applying this to both as large a number of works as possible, and to any given work as many times as possible, because they have nothing to lose, and eventually, most copyright holders will have to choose between going bankrupt or surrendering their rights to any number of avaricious and dishonest entities. And of course if the rights-holder does not find out about and can not contest, or is not informed (either intentionally or by oversight) of just one such "orphan declaration" then he loses his rights. So once again, this can only work to the detriment of the copyright holder and in favour of the tech companies and media conglomerates.

          Note particularly that I have not even mentioned any legal procedures and attendant expenses that would be needed to *overturn* such an false "orphan declaration".

          At any rate, we have the following bizarre situation: a brand of utopianism that is built on expropriating the creator for the benefit of media conglomerates and tech companies.

          "Sitting on a work that is no use to you should not be permitted." Who are YOU to say what should or should not be "of use" and therefore "permitted". As an example, movie rights to stories, novels, magazine articles, etc, are frequently purchased many years after publication. Those rights should now be made available to the production companies for free? Why is that, exactly?

          Even if you are so crass as to consider "monetization" to be the only purpose of copyright, you seem to think that monetization either occurs within some set timeframe, or it doesn't occur at all.

          There is no reason why the rights-holder's possibility for future income should be foreclosed at any time at all, for the sake of someone elses income now.

          A copyright holder is entitled to decide what is to be done with his work. And if that includes refusing to maximize and realize its income-generating potential, well you know, that is his legal and moral right - and needs to remain so. If a rights-holder decides to refuse to sell the movie rights to his story, the movie production company should be allowed to simply appropriate the story for itself? Why?

          "It was never intended that copyright should be used to restrict the use of the work in other respects such as banning it from use by an organization that you don't like. That is a fairly recent abuse of the copyright idea." This is simply wrong, and stupidly so. That was exactly its purpose. An "organiztion I don't like" is an organization that wants to take my work without my permission and make money with it - regardless of whether that reduces my ability to profit from my work or not. But actually, the idea of "an organization you don't like" does not even appear in the matter. In the US Constitution, the passage states that copyright is for "securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". Do you see anything about "organizations you don't like" there? I don't. Nor is there anything there about "purposes you don't like". In fact, if you look at it, it pretty much says that the author has "exclusive rights".And there is no language indicating that the author needs anyone's approval for the rights to be legitimate and enforceable. It seems to me to indicate that "mere whims, caprices, and fancies" are quite legitimate.

          Here's an example: if some recording artist, songwriter, or has-been rock star wants to prohibit a politician from using his recordings or lyrics, that is his prerogative - irrespective or whether I, personally, like that politician, or has-been rock star, or not. But imagine that - if you cant: someone spurning "exposure" for the sake of their political or moral views.

          Hopefully you have learned something from this little excursus. Let us now look at the matter a bit more closely: copyright was intended to give the holder the exclusive right to dispose of a work. Full stop. Even if the right was only given for the sake of monetization, there is NO legitimate reason for the copyright holder to face the choice of either monetizing it himself, or having it taken from him and given to someone else (tech company, or parasite website, just as examples) who thinks that they can make money from it. The idea that a copyright holder needs to meet any standard of use other than his own whims is stupid. The idea that a rights-holder shouldn't be able to withhold the right to use the work, for any reason whatsoever, is also stupid - unless you think that having courts adjudicate the "probity" of a rights-holder's decisions is a "good idea" - but it is only good for the tech companies, as it makes it yet more expensive for the rights-holders to maintain their rights.

          How crass can a legal theory be?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Down

            Downvoted Turtle ...

            ... not because you are wrong - you seem to have a fairly god grasp of the current state of the law - but because you put your point over so objectionable it just becomes noise. For FSM's sake, learn to present without being shrill.

        3. Corinne


          And how can people monetise their works if no-one pays for the work, but just uses it?

          Much of the work published on the internet works as a sort of CV - "look I can do this, is it of merit and is it of value to you to use it". If people then use the work without payment, they are removing the chance to monetise it.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    something tells me that they will...

    ... change the law a bit, and instead of disconnecting the user, they will force the user to use a slow 512k connection*. This should keep them on the good side of the EU law.

    * I still remember the time when that was considered super fast!

  3. Tasogare

    "He wanted to see a US-style approach to IP laws..."

    ...I'm sure there must be a worse standard to aspire to, but none comes to mind at the moment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fair usa provisions.

      The fair usa provisions in the DMCA are pretty damn good as far as I can tell.

      They allow content to be used without permission for a variety of reasons including satire.

      This is one of the reasons that News Corporation is against it being introduced here.

      You only have to look at YouTube to see how many people get away with ridiculing Fox with their own footage precisely because of this clauses in the DMCA.

  4. Anomalous Cowlard

    One thing

    ... I would like to see as a part of a reform would be that the copyright as such would not be transferable but would remain with the originator who could give licenses to distributors putting some competition to the latter game instead of the current "permanently hand your work to a monopoly distributor for a pittance" regime.

  5. Dani Eder

    Definition of "Orphaned"

    Works are copyright at creation, but inability to find the rights holder no more makes the work orphaned than if you cannot find the parents of a child makes it orphaned. In both cases they are merely missing. It does not indicate anything about intent to protect the work or not.

    Conversely, if a work is registered with the copyright office, the registrant is indicating they seek some protection for the work. If they later fail to keep up the registration or at least a trail to find them, that failure indicates they no longer care about protecting the work. From that you can now declare it orphaned.

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