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U.K. announces copyright reform plan

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While the U.S. has been floundering a bit with its copyright law, the British government has just announced its plans to reform and update its own. Its certainly not the most important issue facing the U.S. government right now, but it was a platform during President Obama's campaign and remains a hot topic. The British version has a few key features we'd like to see implemented here in the U.S., including some exceptions and language updates.

One of the biggest pieces outlined in the British proposal is the decision to scrap the idea of web-blocking sites that contain illegal material or links to it. The U.S. has dedicated substantial time and effort into its own plans to do the same, but the framework and infrastructure to do so is not cost effective. We'd guess the U.S. would be wasting just as much money as the U.K. and it could be invested in other forms of protection that are more long-lasting.

The British are also introducing a system of Digital Copyright Exchange that would make selling licenses easier for rights holders -- a feature we'd like to see the U.S. government utilize to not only ensure artists get paid, but to make sure the hundreds of new music provider startups that seem to popping up each day don't have to jump through hoops in order to do so.

They've also decided to legalize the act of "format shifting," which means you can now legally retain the license to music you change file formats of, including putting it in an online storage locker, cloud, CD or alternative format. It is legal in the U.S. to rip a CD, but we'd like to see the language updated to include all devices as well, just for to be safe.

They're streamlining the process to obtain licenses for orphan works. This is a huge problem with music in the U.S. as a big chunk of early American works are lost to unknown copyright holders due to the Copyright Act of 1976. We'd like to see these orphan works qualify as public domain or at the very least, resurface online somehow. Since many pre-1976 works are covered under the copyright law of the county they were recorded in and not on a national level, too much of this country's history is lost to copyright as it stands.

While they have a solid set of ideas we can possibly use here, that doesn't mean it's all good news. Internet service providers in the U.S. recently agreed to a six-strikes rule against pirates, the U.K. is taking things a bit more seriously. Beginning in the second half of 2012, infringers will be notified if their account has been linked to an illegal access of copyrighted material, and if they want to fight the claim, they'll have to pay a fee. We'd prefer the six-strikes rule, as one doesn't seem to offer an leniency in open networks or accidents. Still, no prosecution has been mentioned yet, just an angry worded letter.

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