UK Copyright Reforms get Royal Assent

April 26, 2013

On 26 April, the UK Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act received given Royal Assent, and came into law. The Act includes a number of key changes to UK copyright law.

The copyright reforms in the Act relate to:

  • licensing of ‘orphan works’
  • extended collective licensing
  • regulation of copyright collecting societies

The first two issues are under consideration by the Australian Law Reform Commission in connection with its inquiry into copyright and the digital economy.

The third issue was considered in Australia more than a decade ago, and resulted in the Code of Conduct for collecting societies. See also the recent decision of the General Court of the European Union regarding regulation of collecting societies in the EU.


‘Orphan’ works refers to content for which a potential user has been unable to identify and/or locate a copyright owner. The issue arises most often in relation to the digitisation of collections by cultural institutions such as libraries and museums: ‘mass digitisation’. It is also raised in other contexts, usually in relation to a ‘one-off’ use, which may be a ‘commercial use’. For example, SBS has experienced difficulties getting copyright clearances for TV programs it holds in its archives, to enable them to be released on DVD.



Extended collective licensing is a system whereby a rights management organisation with authority from a sufficient proportion of rightsholders in a class can apply (e.g. to the government) for authority to represent others in that class unless they opt out. The system is well-established in Scandinavian countries, and is being considered elsewhere. It is canvassed by the ALRC in its Issues Paper in the chapter on orphan works.



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