Copyright laws are damaging UK's reputation, peer claims

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A Labour peer has claimed that current copyright arrangements cause "damage to the reputation of our design market".

Baroness Whitaker, a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, stated: "Because sufficient protection has been lacking, the UK has become a safe haven for the sale of replicas of designs that breach copyright."

She made the remarks as she introduced an amendment designed to extend the copyright rules proposed in Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to pre-1957 works and to bring it into line with EU regulations, during report-stage debate of the bill on 11 March 2013.

The bill repeals section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, in order to provide full copyright protection for the period of the author's life plus 70 years.

Lady Whitaker was backed by Conservative Lord Jenkin of Roding, who said he was "not convinced that the bill as drafted adequately protects" designers.

But the Lib Dems' Baroness Brinton warned of the implications for non-commercial bodies, arguing that extending copyright laws would "substantially affect teaching and research".

Labour peer Lord Howarth of Newport went further, saying "the effect of this is to perpetuate monopolies" and it would mean prices are "artificially high, preventing ordinary people having beautiful things".

Shadow business spokesman Lord Stevenson of Balmacara suggested there was "growing concern" over the government's approach to copyright in general.

He asked "what is the point" of extending the application of copyright arrangements in the bill "when we simply don't know enough about it".

Replying for the government, Business Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie reminded peers that a consultation with interested parties would take place and cautioned against "prejudging" that process.

Lord Younger acknowledged fears that "replicas damage the integrity of the design industry" but maintained that the bill would "lead to UK designers developing new designs in markets that become less dominated by copies".

Baroness Whitaker later withdrew her amendment without a vote.

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