After authors including Kate Mosse and Philip Pullman warned that proposed changes to UK copyright laws could be ‘devastating’ for writers, the government has put plans on hold.
The Intellectual Property Office launched a consultation on post-Brexit UK copyright last summer. Writers and publishers feared that if the ‘copyright exhaustion’ rule were changed, governing the expiration of a rights holder’s control over the distribution of their property, it would lead to a flood of cheap international editions of books.
“Writers could lose that valuable ability to sell their work overseas and get paid fairly,” Pullman said at the time, while Mosse added that “if we don’t ensure that writers remain respected for their work, then many will be forced to leave the industry and the UK cultural landscape will suffer greatly.
The government has now announced that due to a lack of available data it has been unable to calculate the economic impact of any alternative to the current scheme, and will therefore maintain the current UK laws on the exhaustion of intellectual property rights.
The news was welcomed by the Save Our Books campaign, organized by the Publishers Association. “We are delighted that the government has chosen to maintain the UK’s benchmark copyright regime, on which our cutting-edge creative industries are based, and that ministers have listened to authors, readers and industry at broad sense about the risks of any change,” AP chief executive Stephen Lotinga said. “I am extremely grateful to our Save Our Books campaign partners, MPs and members of the public who have worked together to champion our case with the government. I know everyone will be relieved to be able to go back to doing what they do best for now – putting amazing books into the hands of readers.
But the government also said it “remains committed to exploring opportunities that could arise from regime change,” which the AP described as a concern.
“The evidence is clear any weakening of our intellectual property laws would be devastating to UK creators, and we will continue to bring this case to the government in any future discussions on the matter,” Lotinga said.