A government strategy promises more access to digital material and more freedom to use it. Zoe Corbyn reports

The proliferation of online resources and the digitisation of source material have revolutionised many aspects of academics’ working lives.

But researchers who work with online content have been frustrated by the UK’s copyright laws, which have not kept up with the changing online environment.

The Government now has a new high-level strategy to update the legal framework and simplify the rules to allow researchers greater access to material and more freedom to use it.

The proposals are in a report, The Way Ahead: A Strategy for Copyright in the Digital Age, released late last month. They are made in acknowledgement of what the report says is “a mismatch between the expectations of users and what copyright currently allows”.

The elements of the strategy that are of most relevance to academics relate to orphan works – material that is in copyright but for which the rights holder cannot be identified or found – and the way in which contract law and copyright law co-exist online.

The strategy was formulated by the Intellectual Property Office, which is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Matt Cope, its head of digital technology, said he recognised that differences between copyright law and contract law were a problem online.

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