The changing world of copyright

By | 28 February 2014

By Katie Carter

It became apparent some years ago that in the brave new world of digital media, existing intellectual property rules weren’t quite keeping up.  A plethora of new case law, legislation and regulation (both UK and EU) continues to emerge to address this situation, but how on earth are you supposed to know what’s going on?

In the UK, the Hargreaves Review published in 2011 included a number of recommendations on What Should Be Done, most of which the UK government accepted.  A handy page of the Intellectual Property Office website provides a timeline of actions taken in response to the Hargreaves Review, and provides an excellent starting point for your awareness of ‘what’s going on’.  The IPO also provides news, which you can follow for further updates on official developments, but I have to admit it’s not my preferred reading.  There are a number of excellent blogs covering wide-ranging IP issues – you’ll find some of them listed by the IPO itself at  A couple of personal favourites, frequently updated, with alerts, wide-ranging comment, and numerous links to supporting documents are The IPKat blog and The 1709 Copyright Blog.  For those wanting to follow the legal journals, subscription services such as Lawtel can provide a subject-based alerting service, emailing you on a daily or weekly basis with a list of new IP articles published, as well as new cases and legislation if you wish.  Oxford students and academics wanting to make use of this option should contact the Legal Research Librarian ( for a username and password.

Returning to our Hargreaves review timeline, a quick glance reveals the range of material with which we might want to keep up.  First on the list is Bills, specifically the Intellectual Property Bill currently making its way through Parliament.  The best way to follow the progress of a bill is in fact through the Parliament website, where each Bill before either house has its own page.  You can find the IP Bill at with links to related documents such as explanatory notes and research papers, clear indication of which stage the bill has reached, and an option on the right to set up an alert for its progress.

IP Bill alerts

Alerts available from the Parliament website

But what about once the Bill has received Royal Assent?  Our observant law students will know that Royal Assent is not necessarily the same as commencement, but how can you check whether the legislation sections in which you are interested have come into force?

Is it in force feature from Westlaw

Is it in Force? (Westlaw)

Lexis and Westlaw can both provide a handy visual check for this in their Status Snapshot and Arrangement of Act respectively.  If we take a quick look at the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, for example, we can see that most sections relating to copyright are in force, except s.74 which has a little way to go.  A subject-based alert including legislation from a service such as Lawtel, LexisLibrary or Westlaw should also alert you to changes in the status of the law.  These services should alert you not only to new Acts, but also to new Statutory Instruments.  A quick glance at the Hargreaves Review timeline from the IPO should tell you how important SIs are to the changing landscape of IP law!

A closer look will show that the government is also consulting on numerous changes.  You can see government consultations through the portal, but bear in mind that consultations are hosted by individual departments, so you may find them more accessible via the department.  In this instance we might want to look at the consultations page on the IPO website – the closing date for consultation on Copyright works: seeking the lost, about the licensing of orphan works, is today (details at

And then are we up-to-date with it all?  Well, not quite…  the EU has also been active in this area, and on the subject of orphan works, the UK government is implementing EU Directive 2012/28 ‘on certain permitted uses of orphan works’.  Last week the Council of Europe formally adopted a new directive ‘on collective management of copyright related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online users in the internal market’, which will have to be incorporated into domestic law within the next two years.  Cases and consultations feature here too, with a decision in Case C-466/12 Svensson two weeks ago which clarified the law on hyperlinks (essentially, linking to a work already publicly available online is not an infringement of copyright as there is no ‘new public’… *author looks at the number of links in this post and gives a sigh of relief*).  And for those interested in changes to EU copyright rules, the public consultation on the review of EU copyright rules has been extended to 5th March (it was due to close on 5th February), with details available at  If all this EU legal information leaves you a little confused,  the Law Bod offers a ‘Book a Librarian’ service.

And finally: for general notes on keeping up and current awareness don’t forget you can find information and ‘how to’ notes in our Research Skills libguide under ‘Keeping up to date’.

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