UK Copyright Consultation Wants Facts Not Fiction

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In the wake of the Hargreaves review the UK is undergoing another copyright consultation review. Of perhaps greater note than the Consultation itself though, is the accompanying notes on evidence. It’s clear the types of sloppy claims that have passed for evidence in the past aren’t going to be tolerated (any more).

Perhaps the point that sticks in people’s heads most about the Hargreaves review of Copyright, which was published in April of this year, wasn’t any of the actual recommendations about copyright, such as personal-use exceptions, but a claim made about the way copyright had been handled by governments.

“We urge Government to ensure that in future, policy on Intellectual Property issues is constructed on the basis of evidence, rather than weight of lobbying,” was the damning indictment on past copyright consultations and legislation efforts, and has clearly prodded Her Majesty’s Government into action.

Last week, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office opened a consultation into the topic, covering several proposals. Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Wilcox stated:

The Government is focused on boosting growth and some freeing up of existing copyright legislation can deliver real value to the UK economy without risking our excellent creative industries. We are encouraging businesses to come forward with thoughts and evidence on our proposals to help us achieve this.

Along with the 171-page consultation document comes a handy little 5 page document (pdf) on data and evidence which is going to leave people at the British Phonographic Institute, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, and other similar industry lobby groups feeling a little sick.

Claims will now have to be backed with numbers, and those numbers will have to be attributed, and where possible, peer-reviewed. Graphs should be accompanied with the raw data in an electronic appendix (to avoid visual manipulation of data) and studies cited will have to include the name of the group that funded it.

Of course, tech-heads also put on notice.

Documents to be written in clear language: a summary to be given, where possible without the use of technical language”. This is a clear warning for those of us who talk of technical issues beyond general knowledge, since as a rule, politicians don’t understand the Internet.

Yet it’s in the footnotes that the barbs really dig deep into the sides of Big Copyright’s lobby groups, with a demonstration of how figures can be manipulated. In the example given, they show how an actual loss of £55 can be turned into an estimated loss of £451. The press have started to doubt some of the claims by the copyright industry, but now it seems governments are too.

It’s almost as if someone’s been reading our articles…. (such as 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 etc.)

The consultation closes March 21st 2012, and can be found here.

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