Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How radical will the Hargreaves Review be?

Supposedly inspired by Google's insistence to Dave Cameron that they couldn't have started-up in the UK, today Ian Hargeaves' review of intellectual property law will be published.

He's just been on Today talking about it, and an indication of how pointless his findings will be comes from the recommendation that he chose to focus on in the interview. Yes, removing the anomaly that makes ripping CDs you own to iTunes or a Zune illegal is long overdue, but it's hardly a flagship recommendation. It's on a par with when they changed the law allowing people to wave dusters out their house a few years back.

The problem is in Hargreaves' terms of reference, which have been about changing copyright law in order to derive economic, rather than intellectual, benefits. A copyright system which works to allow the spread of ideas will certainly have economic benefits, but one which is cut to fit the existing economy is sure to stifle creative thought.

The Guardian speculated yesterday that Hargreaves might also have something to say about orphan works, with the establishment of a body to represent the vanished parents of these works. Interestingly, Hargreaves didn't mention that this morning on Radio 4 - possibly because the question of 'why should people pay to use material whose owners have let it slide out of their grasp' is almost as tricky as 'what will happen to all this money, then?'

Surely he's not proposing that, while the Treasury is emptying orphan bank accounts into the Chancellor's pockets it also annexes orphan creative works?

We'll find out later today.