Creators' Rights Alliance - News - Digital Economy Bill 2009
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Wrapping up: the Digital Economy Act

The Digital Economy Act received Royal Assent - it was passed into law - on 8 April. It did so without the section dealing with creators' rights (Clause 43 in its last incarnation as a Bill before Parliament). The Conservative Party at the last minute (of a process rushed throughout) decided to oppose this and the section that would have funded trial regional news consortia.

The Creators' Rights Alliance throughout sought constructive engagement. We sought to put a common position in the interests of all kinds of creator. We worked closely with organisations that are democratically representative of creators, both in the Alliance and beyond. We worked with Lords to assist drafting amendments that could add the safeguards necessary to ensure creators' interests were not compromised by the proposals for extended collective licensing and licensing of orphan works. At this stage the CRA prioritised three issues:

  • making the so-called "moral rights" - the rights to be identified and to defend the integrity of works - available to and enforceable by all creators;

  • giving creators the right to stay identified by making the current rather theoretical prohibition on removing "metadata" - which includes the creator's credit - enforceable; and

  • making it clear that only bodies that genuinely represent creators (and other "rightsholders") may issue either kind of licence.

Amendments on the first two issues were not accepted, though the government did bring forward others that significantly clarified the proposals, partially addressing the concern about what bodies could be authorised to grant licences. It added other safeguards on what would have to be done before a work could be declared "orphan".

Our activity has had positive results, however. It put these issues on the political agenda more clearly than they have been for decades or longer.

We are "all creators now. I create when I post on my website: you create when you post a note on your Facebook wall, we create when we tweet to each other." That was David Lammy, the government Minister responsible for intellectual property, speaking to a meeting called on 23 March by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property on the "moral rights".

"Any artist puts not just effort but quite a lot of themselves into their work," he went on: "'s clear that the value of that work is largely because of the huge endeavour which that artist has put in and there is a powerful sense that it still remains theirs, their offering to the world, and that is why moral rights are important." Sympathetic words indeed - though Lammy acknowledged that he won't be a Minister for long, unless his party is re-elected.

Are creators better off with Clause 43 being dropped? In the words of CRA member the Society of Authors:

It remains to be seen whether we will look back on the copyright provisions that have been dropped as having been the best compromise that could have been reached, or a poor compromise mercifully avoided. One thing is certain: the question of how to enable orphan works to be used legitimately, and how to license a limited range of digital rights more practically, have not gone away.

Now concerned organisations will have to get on with the job of ensuring, through the promised consultations, that the sections that were included in the Act do not, for example, imperil freedom of expression.

Mike Holderness

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