The High Court
judge, and copyright specialist (right),
argued that international harmonisation, technological
change and new business models that have developed since the
last UK Copyright Act in 1988 make a new law necessary, and
that a holistic approach should be taken.
I don’t think many people, despite the many and
varied views on copyright today, would disagree with that.
He also proposed that the best way to develop a new law
would be to set up a departmental committee or Royal Commission
(as happened with the three previous UK Acts), rather than the
individual-led reviews such as those by Andrew Gowers and Ian
That committee should comprise people with experience in
copyright, said Arnold, including at least one academic.
Again, I don’t think anyone would disagree in
principle. But the problems begin when you start to think about
who should be on the committee.
provided the names of the members of previous committees during
his lecture. Many distinguished figures were among them, such
as the writer Anthony Trollope (left) and the physicist Thomas
Allibone, as well as lawyers, academics and politicians.
But who would you have on the committee today? Depending on
their availability, we could probably identify some senior
solicitors, barristers, civil servants and academics and maybe
even a judge or two (any names spring to mind?).
The various copyright-dependent industries (film, music, TV,
computer games, publishing, broadcasting and so on) would
probably also want to be represented. And what about individual
creators, such as artists, musicians, authors and poets?
Then it begins to get complicated. Any review today would
have to reflect the views of the large technology companies
that are affected by copyright laws. Should Google and Amazon
And what about
copyright users? Libraries (paradoxically) have a loud voice in
these debates, as do students. Should a body like the National
Union of Students take part? And what about those who have
fundamental criticisms of copyright? I’m sure the
Open Rights Group (whose
submission in the recent
Richemont case was described by Arnold himself as "brief,
moderate and helpful") would like to be involved. Maybe the
Pirate Party would too.
This seems to me the challenge of reforming copyright today,
compared to a generation ago: before you can consider what
reform is needed, or how it is to be achieved, you need to
consider whose voice counts.
Presumably the type of committee that Arnold proposes would
be able to take submissions and even hear evidence from the
kinds of groups I’ve mentioned above. But if some
parties are limited to presenting their case, while others have
a seat on the body that makes the decisions, there is a risk
that any reform proposed would lack credibility and face