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UK Copyright. Could do better

Written by Michael Coyle on 06 April 2012

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The UK could do better - Copyright licensing for the digital age.

The Intellectual Property Office has recently released the first phase of the Digital Copyright Exchange Feasibility Study, which already has been met by mixed opinion as reported in <http://www.m-magazine.co.uk/news/copyright-consultation-divides-industry/> and one or two broadsheets for example:-<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/digital-media/9150687/Music-industry-blasts-Government-attempts-to-modernise-copyright-laws.html>

The study, an independent report published by Richard Hooper, follows a consultation period with individuals and organisations across the creative industries. It claims the UK's current copyright licensing process is "not yet fully fit for purpose for the digital age", and that despite UK copyright licensing processes ranking amongst the top leading countries, "there is much that still could be improved".

It identifies problems including:

1. Complexity in the way rights are licensed.

2. The complexity of organisation in terms of the numbers involved in licensing right.

3. Less availability of repertoire (e.g. films) in digital services over the internet than in the physical world of CDs and DVDs.

4. Difficulty in finding out who owns the rights to particular content in specific countries.

5. Difficulty in paying creators fair and accurate shares of the revenues created by their copyright content.

6. Difficulty and expense in licensing copyright for the high volume/ low value transactions that characterise the digital world.

7. A lack of common standards and a common language for sharing rights information between creative sectors and across national borders.

The second phase due to commence April 2012 it claims, will focus on finding "industry-led solutions to these problems", so that "innovation and economic growth will be further accelerated".

One estimation of a benefit to business was an increase of £7.9bn annually. This figure was sourced from <http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/growth_implementation_update.pdf> , ie section 14 (150) "The Government has accepted all recommendations in the Hargreaves Review on Intellectual Property and Growth. This has an estimated benefit to business of £7.9 billion"

Although Mr Hooper was not asked to do so the report failed to tackle the controversial problem of copyright infringement, stating that it is "not about copyright infringement/piracy".

The report argues that a "working digital copyright exchange could reduce copyright infringement by making it much easier for prospective rights users to find out, from an authoritative source, who owns what rights and pay the owners accordingly". With the Digital Economy Act yet to be implemented two years after being passed, these organisations it claimed, identified piracy as "seriously impacting.....viability of licensed digital content services in the UK", and "as much more important than any changes to copyright licensing".

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