UK IP Review: Google, Content Owners Disagree On ‘Fair Use’

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and large media owners have submitted opposing responses to the digitally-focused review of the UK’s intellectual property framework.

Professor Hargreaves is due in April to complete his review, which the UK government commissioned to examine copyright “barriers to new internet-based business models”.

The search engine has told Hargreaves’ review that “rigid but unclear” UK law has had a “chilling effect” on innovation. It calls for a full, US-style Fair Use copyright provision and for liberalisation of an EU list of 22 permitted re-uses of copyrighted material. But broadcasters and others are arguing against such extensions.

Extracts from published submissions below…


“Without a robust fair use doctrine and well-balanced limitations for intermediaries, many of the online platforms for creativity and research that we take for granted today might never have made it off the ground.

The law must not create a culture of ‘permission first, innovation later’ for technology innovators. Such a culture threatens to chill socially beneficial innovation that helps content owners, creators and consumers alike.

“We do not believe that (the EU’s) closed list of (22) exceptions (to copyright limits) is as conducive to innovation as the more flexible, technology-neutral approach embodied within the US copyright regime. The numbers of occasions when innovators might want to use copyrighted material to generate new products in ways that the closed list of EU exceptions did not antitipcate is only likely to increase.

“The US system, with its inherent flexibility, is a better way to ensure new and untested innovations are not killed before they even get off the ground. Digital and internet technology requires constant, continuous copying on a global scale and often of vast quantities.


“We do not believe that the legislative framework is flawed. The suggestion of a US style ‘fair use’ exception does not address the problem of consumers’ non-commercial use in specific instances.

“A US ‘fair use’ exemption is designed to create a wider, vague commercial exemption that extends beyond the established exceptions such as educational exceptions, research and private study or parody.

“We can fully understand why a consumer may wish to (format-shift legally-bought content), but we are also concerned that the exception may be drawn too widely such that it may encourage activity which either economically damages rights-holders or enables widespread copying to multiple users in a way that would clearly infringe on copyright.”

Channel 4

Channel 4 is not convinced that there is a need to introduce a US-style “Fair Use” exception rule to the UK IP Framework.

“While there may be some anecdotal evidence to suggest “Fair Use” may have been an enabler of innovation by US tech companies, a wide range of other key contributory factors have facilitated US innovation, such as access to capital, the cluster effect of Silicon Valley and in particular the huge disparity in the scale of the market between the US and the UK.”


“BT (NYSE: BT) believes that the UK patent system works well. Improve the licensing system. Do not burden ISPs with policing copyright infringement. Avoid precipitous action on fair use. Reduce legal costs generally”