The Hargreaves report on copyright has been given a mixed welcome by the National Union of Journalists, which was among organisations that made submissions through the Creators’ Rights Alliance to the review by former Independent editor Professor Ian Hargreaves .
NUJ freelance organiser John Toner said: “We are pleased that the report rejects the so-called ‘fair use’ doctrine which is based on questionable notions of fairness. The doctrine, which comes from United States law, permits the use of a creator’s work without permission and requires potentially huge legal costs for a successful challenge.
“The Creators’ Rights Alliance pointed out to Professor Hargreaves that Google continues to claim that its scanning of 15 million books without permission is "fair use" - but, when authors and publishers collectively raised the money to challenge this, found it worthwhile to offer a $125 million settlement. Clearly, this does not reflect a system based on fairness towards the creators of work being made available by other parties.
“We are also pleased by the recommendation to introduce a small claims track for IP cases in the courts. The NUJ has been calling for this for a number of years, and we are delighted that someone has finally listened.
“This should improve the position of freelance journalists, and the difficulty that they face in enforcing their rights against infringers, whether individuals or – far more often – against the very publishers and broadcasters who in the Digital Economy Act 2010 gained new means by which they may pursue infringements of their own interests.
“We have serious concerns, though, over the intention to introduce a digital copyright exchange. This might be feasible for other industries, but it could be problematic for our members, particularly photographers.
“Equally we would be concerned about the use of extended collective licensing and the impact that this could have: the interests of individual authors and performers and not just ‘the industry’ must be defended in developing and running any such scheme.
“We are particularly disappointed by the refusal to improve moral rights legislation, a request made in a number of submissions from creators’ organisations. It would be a serious anomaly to legislate for the licensing of orphan works without improving the UK’s weak moral rights legislation.
“We will continue to campaign on this point at each stage of the process.
“It has been NUJ policy for a number of years to call for the replacement of the UK’s current copyright legislation, which tends to treat intellectual property as a commodity, with law in the international mainstream Authors’ Rights tradition. Improved moral rights would be a step in the right direction.”