Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gowers on Gowers

In December 2005, the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked Andrew Gowers, a former editor of the Financial Times, to conduct an independent review of the English IP laws. Mr. Gowers' report, issued in December 2006, is a landmark document. Here is a link to a Treasury Office site with a brief description of the process, but many, many helpful links, including to the report itself. This much is old news.

What is new is a podcast interview Mr. Gowers gave explaining his deliberations, especially on the question of term of protection for sound recordings. In the interview, he explains that the economic evidence supported a shorter term than the existing (UK) 50 year term, but that lowering the term would have been well-neigh impossible, so he settled for not raising it:

"Our conclusions were roundly criticised by the music industry in particular for actually doing the non-revolutionary thing of leaving the status quo in place, i.e. 50 years' term protection for sound recordings," he said. "I could have made a case for reducing it based on the economic arguments.

"We certainly considered it, and if you look at the report that came from the academics that we commissioned to examine the arguments and examine the evidence they also argued very robustly that 50 years could be arguably more than enough. In the end we took the politically prudent course. To be honest reducing it in any case would be a very big international debate. It would stand very little chance of making headway in Europe.

It is an interesting interview worth listening to. Here's the link.


Jordan said...

Okay, so not to be nitpicky, but Gowers reviewed the IP law of all of the UK, not just the law of England and Wales, though as I've reported you wouldn't be at fault for thinking so by reading the report. Scotland and Northern Ireland are distinct legal jurisdictions, and one of the main areas that Gowers did not do is look at how enforcement can be quite different in Scotland. Scotland is a mixed common law and civil law jurisdiction, and has its own criminal law system as well as different court procedure. Criminal IP enforcement is very different north of the border.

William Patry said...

Thanks, Jordan. With an Irish mother, you would think I would know better.