The Gowers Report

This morning’s Observer column

So far, IP lawmaking has been an evidence-free area. In virtually every other area of public policy, lawmakers seek evidence from interested parties before legislating and try to assess where the public interest lies. But IP law has traditionally been made simply by conceding the demands of content owners for ever-greater extensions of their rights, leading to the absurd duration of copyright protection. Every time Mickey Mouse is about to run out of copyright, Disney & Co go to Congress and get an extension – ‘infinity on the instalment plan’, as one wag dubs it. Europe follows suit, and the world marches to the beat of the Disney drum.

Given this background, Tuesday’s publication of the Gowers Report on Intellectual Property is a truly memorable event. Andrew Gowers – the former FT editor I quoted earlier – was asked by Gordon Brown to conduct ‘an independent review into the UK Intellectual Property Framework’, and he has done better than most of us expected. It’s available online and should be a set text for legislators…