Our thanks to Craig Statham, Map Reading Room Manager at the National Library of Scotland, who kindly accepted to offer a review of the event on copyright in a post-Brexit world, which took place last month in Edinburgh.

imageOn 13th October the National Library of Scotland hosted a SLA Europe event that saw Professor Charles Oppenheim give a talk titled ‘Copyright in a Post Brexit World’. I was lucky enough to attend the event and the text below provides a summary. Professor Oppenheim gave an overview of copyright in the following areas:

  • copyright basics
  • what can be copyrighted
  • how long copyright lasts
  • ownership
  • public domain
  • copyright restrictions
  • infringement of copyright
  • licences, exceptions and Creative Commons
  • orphan works
  • Technological Protection Measures (TPM)

After this introduction Professor Oppenheim began to study certain aspects in greater depth. In 2014, for example, some changes were made to copyright law in the UK:

  • CDs already owned can be copied for private use (currently being challenged by music companies)
  • fair dealing exceptions for parody/pastiche (this will require to be tested in court)
  • work can be text and data mined
  • accessible copies can be made for those with visual impairments, dyslexia, or physical disability (does not apply if a version is available commercially)

This final point led Professor Oppenheim on to discuss the Marrakesh Treaty. This treaty is an attempt to make copyright less restrictive for those with disabilities. It has encountered opposition – from Germany and Italy due to pressure from rightsholders, and from the UK because its own legislation is already more generous than that in the Treaty. Professor Oppenheim then summed up his thoughts on the Marrakesh Treaty:

  • disabled users in the UK will not suffer as the UK’s legislation is already very generous
  • disabled users in the EU are due to the UK’s political point scoring against the EU
  • however, the European Court of Justice has the right to implement the Marrakesh Treaty without the support of these three countries, and will likely do so

So how, in Professor Oppenheim’s view, will the UK’s laws be affected in the wake of Brexit?

  • as long as the UK is in the EU, all EU directives will have to be complied with by converting them into our legislation
  • UK courts will need to comply with European Court of Justice decisions
  • if/when the UK leaves the EU there will necessarily need to be some consistency with EU laws in order to allow business with EU countries
  • it is in the UK’s interest to engage with the process of developing the new EU Directive

He also spoke in some detail about the new draft EU directive on copyright and some concerns that were held about it in terms of its drafting.

Although the talk was overall a serious one, and as such drew an audience from across the UK and Europe, Professor Oppenheim did introduce some light-hearted moments. Copyright can, he noted, only be attributed to a human. So if a monkey or an octopus takes a photograph it cannot be subject to copyright.

And he pointed out one of the great oddities of copyright law in France. The Eiffel Tower is out of copyright and can be photographed. However, the lighting that was added in recent years is in copyright and cannot be photographed. As such, the Tower can be lawfully photographed during the day when the lights are off, but it is against the law to photograph it at night when the lights are on.

Overall, this was a very useful and informative session on copyright and one that I very much enjoyed.