Digital minister Matt Hancock pushes to protect designers’ copyright

Hancock, an MP for the Department for Culture, Digital, Media and Sport, has pledged to prioritise the protection of intellectual property and original ideas.

Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital

MP Matt Hancock has spoken out about the need to protect original ideas and UK design after Brexit.

The minister for digital was speaking on copyright and intellectual property at the Design Innovation Law Reform Conference in Singapore this week when he made the comments.

Hancock is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which was renamed to include “digital” in its title in July, placing greater emphasis on the sector. Hancock’s role was changed from minister for digital and culture, to minister for digital prior to this in June.

“Taking work without consent is theft”

At the conference, he said that, while it will be important to share art, culture and design internationally following Brexit, “ease of access” has also led to original ideas becoming devalued.

“Working artists deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, and taking work without consent is theft,” he said. “We must commit to protecting that content, because it’s morally right and because of its worth to our economies.”

He added that the UK’s IP laws and rights, including patents, designs, copyright and trademarks, are “highly respected around the globe”, but that they should be updated to protect IP online. He added that, since 2001, the UK has invested more in digital or “intangible” inventions than physical products.

“The ability to send ideas and content around the world at the push of a button means we must take care to ensure its creators are properly rewarded,” he said.

Loss of unregistered design rights

Design industry bodies such as Anti-Copying in Design (ACID) have raised concerns recently about UK-based businesses losing access to European Union (EU) copyright laws after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

This includes unregistered design rights, an EU law which automatically protects designs for 15 years from the date of creation without the designer having to do anything.

DCMS has said it will commit to improving IP rights by encouraging search engines and popular websites to take down illegal content, and working with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and European counterparts to strengthen and share laws internationally.

Hancock also recently spoke about the need to increase diversity in the creative sectors, and better integrate art and design subjects into the UK education system.

“It’s incumbent on everybody to ensure they reach to all parts of our own country and make sure everybody gets the chance to make the most of their lives,” he said at the Creative Industries Federation’s International Conference in July. “The creative industries have done good work but there’s much more work to do.”

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