UK copyright and patent-reform, in perspective

Yesterday, I blogged about the UK Hargreaves report on patent and copyright reform, a sane-sounding collection of proposals to modernise UK copyright laws, expanding the "fair dealing" exceptions to include parody and format-shifting (among other things). Now, Professor James "Public Domain" Boyle (who sat on the expert advisory panel to the report) has some perspective on the report:

The Review makes 10 specific recommendations covering patent, copyright and the policy-making process. Some examples: Patent law needs reform to prevent the formation of "thickets" that actually impede innovation, while patents should never be extended to non-technical software inventions or business methods. We found that while patents are working well for standalone innovations, such as a particular drug developed to treat a particular disease, there are problems in technical fields marked by "sequential innovation" such as information technology…

More broadly, the Review argues forcefully that in the future, British intellectual property policy should be evidence-based. As opposed to what, you might ask. Astrology-based? Bizarrely, evidence-based policy is a rarity in the world of intellectual property, while intuition, celebrity endorsement and anecdote run rampant. The Review argues we need to junk this method of doing business and base policies on transparent and rigorous economic methods and not, to use its phrase, "lobbynomics."

The Review noted that there was a pattern of dysfunction in the way policy had been made; rights had been extended despite clear evidence that this provides no economic benefit, such as retrospective copyright term extension, while reforms languished despite the obvious irrationality of some aspects the current system, such as orphan works. Its conclusion is striking.

The Hargreaves Review Published Today

The Hargreaves Report (AKA Independent Review of IP and Growth) site

The Hargreaves Report (PDF)