Last month we reported on The Department of International Trade’s consultation on prospective trade agreements. This month we are pleased to see that The Bookseller has reported on the response submitted by The Society of Authors which sends a loud and clear message to the government that copyright must not be watered down and used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Quite right. Our creative industries are successful here and abroad and the success is due in part at least to robust laws which ensure that publishers can derive income from their work.
Publishers here also benefit from a defined list of exceptions which amount to fair dealing and o blanket exceptions for educational use such has been introduced in Canada. The Society of Authors reference international copyright treaties such as the Berne Convention the Rome Convention, TRIPs and the WIPO internet treaties and demands that these be expressly referred to in any free trade agreement. Another area of concern is the possible inability of authors to pursue low cost enforcement options such as available to an author here through the small claims track of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. That particular issue may be difficult to impose although it is perfectly possible to agree that a country provide further enforcement options as part of a free trade deal. For the time being authors may consider taking the additional step of registering their copyright in the US to put themselves in a better position in the event they are copied.
It is not clear if and when free trade discussions get going in earnest and what sort of input the pubic and interest groups will have in the process and it is useful that the Department of International Trade have canvassed views at this early stage and ahead of any actual negotiations. With potentially only a short time frame in which to strike deals, the Department of International Trade would really benefit from assembling expert panels from across all industries to assist it in making deals which really are beneficial to everyone in the UK, balancing the interests of consumers and producers and ensuring standards are maintained.
Written by Margaret Briffa