One of the main issues on which the Copyright Review Committee invites submissions is whether there ought to be a Copyright Council of Ireland (the Council). The model which is proposed for discussion in the Consultation Paper would be an independent self-funding organisation, created by the Irish copyright community, recognised by the Minister, and based on principal objects that ensure the protection of copyright and the general public interest as well as encouraging innovation (update: you can download a pdf of the Paper here (via DJEI) or here (from this site)).
The copyright communities in many other countries – such as Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom – have established copyright councils. The functions of these copyright councils are very similar, representing the interests of their members, principally rights-holders and collecting societies. However, the model in the Paper goes considerably further, with a broadly-based subscribing membership, so that every interested member of the Irish copyright community (such as all of the various categories of person and organisation which made submissions to the Review) could be subscribing members of the Council if they wish to be. Such a body has the potential to be an important resource for the Irish copyright community and the general public, especially if it undertakes processes of public education on copyright, recommends standards of best practice, and gathers evidence to support the process of ongoing copyright reform. At the end of the chapter, an early draft is provided of the kind of legislative provisions which might be necessary to establish such a Council (modelled on the statutory provisions which underpin the Press Council).
The Paper explores whether the Council ought to include an Irish Digital Copyright Exchange, to facilitate speedy, effective and comprehensive copyright licensing. The Exchange would co-ordinate with the similar body currently being considered in the UK, but there is still a small window of opportunity for the Irish copyright community to come forward with an agreement in principle to form a Council, one of the functions of which would be to operate a digital Exchange. In turn, government could encourage and facilitate such a development. This could all be supported and underpinned by clear legislative structures. And it would be a strong signal to foreign direct investors that Ireland is committed to promoting both copyright and innovation.
The Paper also explores whether the Council ought to include a Copyright Alternative Dispute Resolution Service, to provide a voluntary, independent, speedy and free alternative dispute resolution mechanism. This ADR service could publish standard form Alternative Dispute Resolution clauses by which copyright disputes could be referred to the ADR Service, and these ADR clauses could be included in various standard form copyright contracts. And it could also publish standard form ADR contracts, by which parties to copyright disputes where there is no ADR clause could still agree to refer the matter to the ADR Service.
An important issue considered in the Paper is the nature of the interrelationship between the ADR Service and the Controller of Patents, Trade Marks and Design, who has very important functions under the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (also here). For example, the Council and the ADR Service could have a role to play before an issue reaches the Controller; and, when an issue does reach that office, the Controller could have an increased range of powers and responses similar to those exercised by specialist copyright boards and tribunals in other jurisdictions (such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK). The Council could also have a role to play in resolving the issues surrounding the compulsory publication of royalty rates.
It was a recurring theme in the submissions that there is a significant need for simpler, speedier, and more cost-effective determination of copyright disputes. Establishing a Council with an alternative dispute resolution service, and expanding the jurisdiction of the Controller, would be important steps in the development of a comprehensive dispute-resolution architecture. The Paper also explores the possibility (similar to the specialist Patents Division in the County Court in the UK, and to a process being considered by the US Copyright Office) of establishing specialist jurisdictions in the District Court and the Circuit Court relating to copyright (and – potentially – other intellectual property law disputes).
The intersection of innovation and copyright is a complex one; and, given the pace of technological development, it is a swiftly moving target. Moreover, policy-making is an ongoing process, and the present consultation can only respond to a snapshot in time. A pro-active Council would be in an excellent position to respond to challenges and changes as they occur, to ensure that the practice of Irish copyright is best-adapted on an ongoing basis to sustain innovation and to find the most appropriate balance of all of the interests involved.
As always, the chapter ends with a series of questions which seem to the Committee to arise from the discussion of the Council, and it is hoped that the next round of submissions will engage some of these questions (there are 86 questions in total, set out in Appendix 3, and the Committee would be delighted to receive any responses to any of them. In particular, it is not necessary for any submission to seek to answer all of them). Any submissions should be received by close of business on Friday 13 April 2012 Thursday 31 May 2012“>Friday 13 April 2012. There will also be a public meeting from 10:00am until 12:00 noon, on Saturday 24 March 2012, in the Robert Emmet Lecture Theatre, Room 2037 Arts Block (map here), Trinity College Dublin. Attendance is free and open to anyone interested in the work of the Committee, but registration is necessary. To make a submission, or to register for the public meeting, please email the Review.