Rights and Repositories: Overview of the legal landscape

Charles Oppenheim now presenting. He is going to concentrate on Copyright as he believes this is the main issue that academia is interested in (as opposed to trade marks, designs, patents etc.) (although I suspect  that these may become more important to us as I think there is a growing pressure to look at commercial opportunities growing from academic research)

Copyright protects the skill and labour expended by someone creating something new. Copyright is automatic (doesn’t require registration of any kind). The owner has the rights to authorise or prevent third parties from copying (and certain other things) the work. There are various exceptions, such as library privilege, fair dealing etc.

Database rights protects collections of data or materials. In general as long as the collection and verification of the contents of the database involved significant resources, protection is given – arguable most repositories will enjoy both database rights and copyright.

Charles goes on to mention Performers Rights and Moral Rights.

Some major questions for repositories:

  • Who owns the rights in the materials that are being added? (The employer? the academic? students?)
  • Have those rights been licensed or assigned to the repository?
  • If not, can the repository hold the materials?

Copyright is much less to do with the law but more about ‘risk management’ and perception of risk – you don’t need to be nervous, but you do need to be aware of the risks.

Also need to question whether moral rights have been infringed in any way and whether performers rights are involved?

For Orphan works, if it is low risk that anyone will anyone will complain, then why not make stuff available? If you feel it is higher risk, you need to judge the risks and make a decision.

Licenses you might use or encounter are:

  • Open Source s/w licenses
  • Creative Commons, Creative Archive, Science Commons
  • CLA or other RRO licenses

There are a number of forthcoming possible changes to the law:

Gowers Review

This was generally satisfied with current UK IP environment, although identified a number of areas where law was inappropriate or out of date.

There are expected to be a number of consultations to be carried out as a result – so far only one has been done, which is about possible changes to ‘exceptions to copyright’ and especially relevant are those relating to exceptions for educational use.

Gowers recommended an expansion to the exceptions to encompass ‘distance’ learning (even trivial distance), and that it should be media-independent – and to like exceptions to intent (i.e. for education) rather than medium.

Also recommended changes to use for research or private study – why restricted to literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works – why not all materials, and what would be the impact of doing this?

Gowers recommend extension of Library Privilege to bring more flexibility and more types of materials, and to expand to museums and galleries.

There were many more recommendations, and in theory we should see legislation to this later this year – but Charles believes we may see these bundled up with other changes coming out of EU proposals.

EU law

Changes to Sound Recording term from 50 years to 95 years. Gowers commissioned work that showed this was neither necessary or desirable. However, this has gone to EU with lobbying from major music companies, and they have drafted a directive (which may not become law) to this effect. If it is passed, it could have a significant impact on repositories collecting sound recordings (and there tends to be a high proportion of Orphan Works with sound recordings because of the number of people involved in the creation)

There is also currently a general review of copyright law by the EU, but at this stage only a discussion document, and it isn’t clear what this will mean for UK law, but Charles believes that this discussion could hold up implementation of any of the legislation coming out of the Gowers Review – so we can expect UK law to remain as is for some time.

A final thing worthy of note is that there is a draft directive on public secotr information in place which, if it becomes law, it would mean all documents created and published by a University would have to be offered at minimal costs to any private sector organisation that wishes to commercially exploit it – which would include material held in publicly accessible repositories. It should be noted that there was a previous attempt to bring this in, but lobbying by HEIs managed to stop it.

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