Presented by: Theo Bertram (Policy Manager, Google Inc)


Thank you for not booing – I have been to a lot of copyright conferences where people hearing the introduction usually results in the crowd booing. I guess this is progress. But I’m very much a believer in the idea that partnership is better than litigation and legislation in our area, and I think CREATe can be really important in achieving that.

I want to start by getting you to cast your minds back 25 years. So think of the time when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister.

Audience Member: No!

Neil Kinnock was leader of the Labour Party. Ronald Reagan was the most powerful man in the world and his biggest fear was the Soviet Union. At the time, I think top of the book-selling charts was David Lodge’s Nice Work. In the charts were Chaka Khan, Rick Astley, and I think one of the top-grossing films of the year was Cocktail, which I remember since it was the first date I ever went on.  So, you can judge it for yourselves whether that’s a great year for culture. But the biggest threat to the film and music industry at that time was perceived to be the tape recorder and VCR. In 1988, at that time, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of Google, were still at school, about 15 and 14 at that time.

So that was 25 years ago, and that was when the UK Copyright Act was last updated, in 1988. And if you had said to legislators at that time, that they had to look forward to now and to anticipate what the change would be, it’s absolutely impossible. And as we sit here again now and look forward to how should we legislate for copyright for change in the future. I think that’s one of the reasons why – Google are often asked to predict the future – we have no idea what’s going to happen even in the next few years, let alone the next 25 years.

Having looked at the room, as we look at how we update copyright, I don’t think many of us, perhaps with the exception of the lawyers, would want to see the update of copyright law as an ongoing, continuum every year. So in that context, I think copyright law, when you do update it, has to be updated in a way that’s flexible and where it can survive for the long term.

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