Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Boswell: The hon. Gentleman has made an interesting point, although it occurs to me that a commercial company might also have a subsidiary activity in which it offered the additional services not for profit. However, I am sure that the Committee can consider that.

I wish to make the point用erhaps more explicitly than I did in my earlier remarks葉hat one of the important points about an approved body is that it ties in with the record keeping, which is fairly central to this. There needs to be some sort of boundary to the activities of a particular body or institution, and some ability to get hold of the records and see that the spirit and the terms of the legislation are being complied with.

Mr. Heath: Yes. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I accept that the Bill makes provision for proper record keeping, and I think that we all would approve of that. However, infringement of copyright is challengeable in law, and it will remain so following the passage of this legislation. Currently, there is no requirement on everyone who proposes to infringe the law to keep a copy of the way in which they choose to infringe it, so perhaps common law or statute law can already deal with this用erhaps the courts can deal with the issue.

The point at issue is not so much the nature of the body that is responsible, but the purposes for which it

Column Number: 015

is making the copies. I may be wrong: there may be very good reasons why it cannot be defined in the reciprocal way. However, it might simply be a better suggestion.

I welcome the intermediate copies in new clause 3. That is a sensible provision. It was not explicitly dealt with previously, and it is of great value.

With regard to the licensing schemes, I hear what the publishers say. I accept their view that the copyright tribunal is an existing body that could be used for arbitration, but it is important that this legislation contains some reference to a scheme of this kind. Whether it is unnecessarily complex is a matter of judgment, but on balance I believe that the Bill's promoter has a proper scheme, within the framework of the legislation.

Mr. Boswell: There may be a European angle here, because provisions within the directive may be made that seek to tie this down, and that might be a better approach. The Minister might wish to advert to that in her response.

Mr. Heath: Again, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that.

New clause 5 gives the Secretary of State the power, effectively, to revoke a licence. I can see why that is a comfort to publishers and authors, but I am not entirely convinced that I understand why it is a necessary comfort, given that an activity that falls outside the scope of the exemptions in the Bill would clearly be an infringement of copyright. There are court procedures that can be invoked at that stage, moving on to injunction for a repeated infringement. I am not entirely clear用erhaps the Minister can help me熔n why the Secretary of State needs these powers. I agree with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West because I cannot envisage that the powers would be needed in any circumstances with respect to the bodies that I anticipate would use the measures. Why is an additional comfort required to create the stronger position of the Secretary of State intervening, rather than the courts? It is possible to make an application to the court for infringement of copyright and anything that fell within the scope of the new clause would be actionable because it would be in breach of the Bill's provisions. The provision seems to be otiose.

New clause 6 contains proposed new section 31F(4). It includes the important provision on navigation, but it repeats the provision that I understand to be in copyright legislation already about derogatory treatment. I think that that is what the hon. Member for Daventry referred to with his poetry. I shall express myself in rather less poetic terms.

It is important that copies should not pervert the sense of the original. That is an important protection for publishers and authors to ensure that their intellectual property is not damaged. What is the interplay between new clause 6 and the provision in new clause 1 on a single accessible copy for personal use, which may be made if

    ''a visually impaired person has lawful possession or lawful use of . . . part of''

Column Number: 016

a published work? Could it be derogatory to make a copy of part of an integral work?

Mr. Boswell: The dirty bits, for example.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman makes an inappropriate suggestion to a Committee that is considering a serious business, although a person could have that suggestion in mind.

I hope that there is not a disjunction between the provisions in new clause 6 and those in new clause 1, which allow for part of a published work to be copied for the use of a blind or visually impaired person, and that the one provision could not be used as a pretext to remove the rights given by the other. I would welcome any comments on that from the promoter or the Minister.

I hope that my comments have been supportive and constructive to the passage of the Bill. I want the Bill to reach the statute book and I want the Committee to accept the new clauses. If it is possible to improve the Bill as it goes through the parliamentary process, so be it. However, it is desperately important that we get the Bill on the statute book. It is a major advance and I congratulate the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West on her hard work.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson): I associate myself with the remarks made by other members of the Committee in welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Cook.

I am delighted to express again the Government's support for the Bill. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West on giving us the opportunity to enact a very useful Bill that will benefit visually impaired people. We fully support the new clauses. It may be helpful if I make several remarks and try to respond to points that were raised.

We must think carefully about whether the Bill, which introduces new exceptions to copyright to benefit a specific category of copyright user要isually impaired people用rovides a fair balance. That has been the subject of considerable discussion this morning. Indeed, an unfair balance would raise concerns under human rights law. We have taken advice, and I can confirm that the Government are satisfied that the Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights.

We agree that there will be a need for guidance on the Bill's provisions, and we shall continue to encourage right holders and users to meet to iron out any practical problems in the spirit of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West and other Committee members.

11.30 am

We shall not support the clause, as it is replaced by the seven new clauses, which should deliver exceptions to the copyright as intended in the admirable but not quite accurate text in the clause. I have little to add to what my hon. Friend said about new clause 1, as she explained admirably how it benefits visually impaired people who have copyright material that they find inaccessible.

Column Number: 017

A visually impaired person may keep an accessible copy that they were entitled to have made, or are entitled to have transferred to them, only if they still have what is referred to in the Bill as a ''master copy'' of the copyright material. It is not legal under the exception for a visually impaired person to make an accessible copy and pass it on to another visually impaired person who does not have a master copy. Nor is it possible for a visually impaired person to keep an accessible copy when they have handed on the master copy to someone else.

That is an important safeguard for right holders, as I am sure that Committee members agree, as the alternative would mean that a single master copy could result in a multiplicity of accessible copies held by different people. That scenario is simply not legal under the terms of the new exception to copyright.

That was one of the points about which right holders were worried. Many of us received briefing material expressing their anxieties. I hope that they will be reassured that we have listened to them and that the new clauses take their anxieties into account when that is reasonable. I therefore commend the new clause, which, together with the other new clauses, delivers exceptions to copyright as intended by the Bill as drafted, which had some technical problems that have been removed.

As my hon. Friend explained, some additional safeguards for copyright holders have been helpfully added, without removing or reducing the benefits that the Bill provides for visually impaired people. New clause 2 will insert the second new exception into the 1988 Act. Although the first new exception will be useful, in some circumstances, making multiple copies of the same copyright material in accessible formats will be beneficial, especially, as several hon. Members said, in the case of formats such as braille that are expensive to produce.

A considerable number of organisations at both local and national level are already engaged in such activity, but they can face many frustrations and delays in obtaining copyright clearances. The exception will remove those delays and, together with the provisions in the remaining new clauses, will provide safeguards to protect the legitimate interests of copyright owners. Moreover, copyright owners can gain remuneration for such activity by setting up licensing schemes to override the exception. We support the new clauses.

As they relate to earlier provisions in the Bill, I shall turn first to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). Works and published editions are defined in sections 3 to 8 of the 1988 Act. Works can be recorded in any way, including electronically. I hope that that reassures him.

I cannot be so reassuring about databases, which the hon. Gentleman also mentioned. A legal problem is involved in applying the exception to enable databases to be copied without infringing copyright in the database. It arises out of our obligations under European Union law. We are taking up the matter with the Commission, including in the context of the

Column Number: 018

current review of the relevant EU law, the database directive, 96/9/EC. However, the Bill must be drafted to exclude any activity that would infringe the copyright in the database, and therefore the position is as it stands.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 1 May 2002