Last week, the process of line-by-line scrutiny of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (the ‘Bill’) by its parliamentary committee (the ‘Committee’) began. The Bill deals with a number of themes, including provisions amending employment and competition regulation, the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the ‘CDPA’). This article deals with the proposed changes to the CDPA and the Bill’s timetable for scrutiny by the House of Commons and House of Lords.
The key amendments to the CDPA will be:
- to abolish the abbreviated 25-year protection where artistic copyright subsists in a three-dimensional design that has been created using "an industrial process”, giving it parity with other copyright works (i.e. life of the author plus 70 years); and
- to allow the Secretary of State to use statutory instruments to create new exceptions to copyright infringement, and to repeal existing exceptions. This will result in a lower level of scrutiny than the current system, where changes to such exceptions must be made by primary legislation only.
The Government claims that, if enacted, the act will allow parliament to respond to technological changes more rapidly and build flexibility into the system of specifying copyright and performance rights exceptions. Opponents claim that the proposed reforms will not have the impact that the Government anticipates and will in fact result in more uncertainty for businesses, designers and authors who rely on assets which are protected by copyright and the income they generate.
At the Bill’s second reading, Business Secretary Vince Cable sought to give assurances that the Government will not change copyright law without proper parliamentary scrutiny, and will primarily use the new powers to maintain levels of criminal penalties. However, there was no mention of how new exceptions implemented by statutory instrument will affect copyright holders’ rights on an international level. In a world where designs are increasingly being shared across borders in order to lower businesses’ cost bases, businesses are concerned with how rights that are afforded to copyright holders on a national level may be enforced internationally. This period of consideration therefore may be a crucial one for interested parties to play a role in shaping copyright reform.
The Bill is currently undergoing line-by-line scrutiny, with the sessions open to the public, until 17 July. Written submissions to the Committee are being accepted until that date. Information for making written submissions can be found here. The Committee is expected to report by 17 July, after which a third reading in parliament will be scheduled before the Bill’s first reading in the House of Lords later this year.
Further information on the Bill and its progression through Parliament can be found here.