Predictions 2015: Another Varied Selection

December 4, 2014

These predictions, from Andrew Katz, John Halton, Jon Baines, Justin Dear and Mark Weston, cover a wide range of IT law and related issues – from light to dark and many flavours in-between.

{b}From Andrew Katz, Partner, Moorcrofts LLP{/b}

1. A consortium of patent holders will lobby for a repeal of s 60(5)(a) of the Patents Act – which provides for a defence of patent infringement in a non-commercial private context. Patent holders will worry about people using 3D printers to make patented inventions without liability.

2. There will be more revelations of bugs in open source software, like heartbleed. These will be fixed more quickly than the equivalent bugs in proprietary software, but they will prompt (dubious) assertions from proprietary software companies about the security of open source code. This will prompt more and better-funded open source foundations, as large companies realise that well-funded foundations are a vital component in their business ecosystem.

3. The security services will continue to assert that it’s possible to have a magic key to encrypted materials which they alone can access, and which is immune from exploitation by bad actors.

4. U2 will start breaking into people’s houses to play them their latest album, and Bono will wonder why this is not a popular thing to do.

{b}From John Halton, who is a senior legal counsel at the Financial Times (though writing here in his personal capacity). He blogs at and tweets as @johnhalton. {/b}

‘Always different, always the same,’ was how John Peel described legendary post-punk band, The Fall. Much the same can be said of how copyright law will look in 2015.

For many, it may feel like only the first two words of that statement – ’always different’ – are true at the moment. 2014 saw some major developments in copyright law, including the new UK copyright exceptions and the important CJEU decisions on internet-related copyright issues such as linking (Svensson), embedding (BestWater) and caching (Meltwater). 2015 will see all the main copyright stakeholders – owners, creators, users – working out how to navigate the new landscape.

Content creators will be keen to push the new exceptions on quotation and parody as far as possible, while owners will be looking for ways to prevent this from turning into a ‘fair use’ free-for-all. A similar tussle is likely over the data-mining exception, as researchers look to make maximum use of this (and to test the boundaries of what is ‘non-commercial research’) and content owners try to find ways to manage this, perhaps through licensing models. Will the movie industry challenge the private copying exception, as they have threatened? Will the seemingly innocuous decisions on linking, embedding and caching have unintended consequences that weaken copyright more than the CJEU anticipated? Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the new European Commission, which has made further copyright reform one of its main priorities for the next five years.

However, despite all this, fundamentally copyright will remain ‘always the same’: it will still be a key protection for content owners and creators, and predictions of apocalyptic consequences for creative industries (who have been predicting their own demise at the hands of technology and weakened copyright laws since the invention of the video recorder) will remain unfulfilled.

{b}From Jon Baines, Chairman, NADPO (National Association of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officers){/b}

My predictions for 2015 focus on ePrivacy law and Data Protection.

Regarding the former, I predict that (in line with proposals in the current DCMS consultation) the ‘harm threshhold’ for the serving of Monetary Penalty Notices for serious contraventions of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations will be significantly lowered or even removed. This will result in a major and surprisingly effective campaign by the Information Commissioner against spam calls, texts and emails.

Regarding the latter, to be honest I’ve grown rather tired of wrongly predicting when the European General Data Protection Regulation will be finalised. However, I think early 2015, the target of Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming President of the European Commission, is too optimistic. Late 2015 is perhaps more likely, and I predict that, ultimately, its aim of pan-European harmonisation will be negated by carve-outs, caveats and the adoption of risk-based approaches to compliance and enforcement.

{b}From Justin Dear, Head of Online News Desk (Asia-Pacific) for Agence France-Presse{/b}

I predict there will a growing battle within the courts between freedom of expression and human rights and moves by the government to prevent recruitment of jihadists through social media. David Cameron recently told a press conference ‘We must not allow the Internet to be an ungoverned space,’ adding there was a role in this for both government and companies: ‘In the UK we are pushing companies to do more, including strengthening filters, improving reporting mechanisms and being more proactive in taking down this harmful material.’ (Quotes courtesy of AFP)

{b}From Mark Weston, Partner, Commercial / IP / IT at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP{/b}

I make one prediction only: During 2015, the Trustees of SCL, will change the name from the ‘Society of Computers & Law’ to the ‘Society of Technology & Law’ (or STL).