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We Need a Complete Re-think on IP, Copyright & Patent Law

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I find it hard to reflect on copyright without also examining its brothers and sisters which include intellectual property, digital rights and patent law. I no longer think you can discuss copyright in isolation.

I have been a huge fan of the work of Larry Lessig at Harvard University; he has successfully sought to add a very substantial formalisation of copyright under a creative commons licence. I hope he can hear my standing ovation for his magnificent efforts.

I regret we have such complex patent laws which were supposed to protect the inventor but which have grown topsy-turvy and become such a pain that many no longer seek their protection. I have been struggling to understand why patent laws only protect the inventor for five, renewable to a maximum of 20, years whilst a writer keeps his or her copyright for 70 years after death. I was not surprised at the campaign by our musicians and composers to ask for the same rights as our authors.
My real concern is that in this digital age, my own intellectual property has been taken without my permission and certainly without a fee by so many social networking sites who have then sold them on to advertisers and polling companies. These are our rights and should be enshrined in human rights legislation.

It will therefore come as no surprise that I favour a complete re-think on IP-copyright-patent law. My own Government continually fudged it whilst I was an MP (1997-2010) as arguments raged between government departments as to whose responsibility it was. It was ever thus…tiny-minded civil servants serving themselves not the creative community. Alas, I am not hopeful that if there is a new Government on 6 May 2010 that they will have this uppermost in their minds. We shall all be the poorer for it.

(Article for British Library online debate on 300 years of Copyright.)


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