News story

JISC welcomes Gowers Review of Intellectual Property

Thu 14th Dec, 2006

11th December, 2006. JISC today broadly welcomed the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, published by the Treasury last week, which provides a review and evaluation of the issue of intellectual property (IP) in the digital age.

In particular JISC welcomed its insistence on the need for balance and flexibility in IP regimes and its emphasis on the vital importance of the education sector to the UK’s knowledge economy. The review has made a number of recommendations some of which, subject to implementation, are likely to have a significant impact upon teaching, learning and research activities in the UK.

Sarah Porter, JISC’s Head of Development said: “ICT is now an integral part of education and research and there are a myriad of IP issues now being faced by the education sector. The Gowers Review is helpful in addressing some of these - for example, its recommendations regarding orphan works and copyright. We need an IP regime that supports the digital environment. JISC will continue to monitor developments and to help develop solutions that are flexible and support learning and research.”

The current IP regime severely restricts the ability of staff in FE and HE to make copies for educational use. This is especially true in the case of materials in e-learning packages, virtual learning environments, etc. JISC welcomes those recommendations (2, 8, 9, 10a, 10b, 11, 12) which will support greater use of varied teaching and learning approaches, typical of those which may be funded by JISC, as well as assist librarians to better preserve our academic and cultural heritage.

Many universities and colleges may not own the rights in sound recordings that they use as part of their core activities. Therefore an extension of duration to the copyright of such recordings would have been detrimental to education and research. JISC welcomes the recommendation (3) that the current length of protection (50 years) should remain.

The time and effort spent by staff in FE and HE in tracing owners of orphan works (ie works for which the copyright owner is unknown) in order to obtain clearance to copy them is considerable. JISC welcomes those recommendations (13,14a, 14b) which, if implemented, would clarify the meaning of ‘reasonable search’ and the legal liability of someone who has carried out such a search.

JISC welcomes the recommendation (7) that patent rights are not extended beyond their current limits in software.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems have increasingly been used by rights holders to block access to content and the effect of this is to override the educational exceptions to copyright which users have traditionally enjoyed. Consequently, many HE and FE staff and students may in the future be restricted from accessing content to which they legally have the right to access or for which copyright no longer even exists. Furthermore, the law as currently implemented in the UK makes it virtually impossible for an individual or institution to gain redress if a DRM prevents access to material that is required for a bona fide purpose under an exception to copyright. Whilst those recommendations which deal with DRM (15, 16) are disappointing, JISC believes they provide a better starting point for ensuring that JISC-funded projects are able to deploy DRMs in more controlled environments and in accordance with industry standards to ensure access to content for educational purposes.

While JISC broadly welcomes the Gowers review, it will continue to lobby for the optimum outcomes on behalf of UK further and higher education, including lobbying to ensure that statutory exceptions and permitted acts in relation to copyright law are not overridden by contractual terms, an issue which the review has not addressed.

For further information on the Gowers review, please go to: Gowers review

For further information, please contact: Philip Pothen (JISC) on 07887 564 006 or