Gowers upsets record labels

Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Financial Times, delivered his Review of Intellectual Property today and while it could have been better for digital rights campaigners, there are certainly some positive recommendations. However, they are only recommendations, so the Government may decide to ignore them. A few weeks back I wrote about the record industry's campaign to have the copyright term on recordings extended from 50 years to 95 years. Today, Gowers recommended that the term stay at 50 years. The record industry are undeterred, however. Even before the Gowers Review was released, they had begun their campaign to persuade the Government to ignore him.

Digital rights guru Lawrence Lessig is pleased that Gowers recommended against retrospective copyright extensions. He writes: "Bravo. Now if only the British (and every) government could muster the courage to follow this advice."

He doesn't sound too confident. If the Government doesn't rule out retrospective extensions, we'll have this debate again in 2012 when The Beatles recordings begin to come out of copyright. That's if the record labels can keep their greedy mouths shut for that long.

Gowers also argues for a change in the law to permit copying for personal use. This is good news but really it's just common sense. If you buy a CD, why shouldn't you be allowed to copy it to your MP3 player?

However, there are other recommendations that cause concern. The review calls for stronger enforcement of IP rights through, among other things, tougher penalties including up to ten years in jail "online copyright infringement". As the Open Rights Group makes clear in their overview, Gowers appears "to make no distinction between large-scale commercial counterfeiting and small-scale non-commercial acts carried out by individuals".

Kevin Marks goes further on his blog and says that Gowers uses rhetoric that actively reinforces the idea the commercial counterfeiting and personal downloading are equal offences.

Finally, the always thought-provoking Techdirt argues that the review is too balanced. This isn't a balanced fight where "what one side gives up, the other gains", instead everyone needs to "rethink how they view the space".

Overall though, the Gowers Review is positive. Let's hope the Government follows his recommendations.