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An independent report released today has indicated that the UK Intellectual Property Office will aim to create a not-for-profit digital copyright exchange (DCE) in an effort to modernise the process of copyright licensing. The establishment of such a hub was one of the key recommendations of Professor Ian Hargreaves’ independent review into the efficacy of Britain’s IP system.
Entitled Streamlining copyright licensing for the digital age, the report – by Richard Hooper CBE and Dr Ros Lynch – provides an outline for the proposed cross-sectoral forum, which will link up with national and international, public and private sector copyright databases and rights registries to provide a one-stop transactions shop for licensors and licensees.
The report states that the copyright hub will have five main purposes, namely to:
• Act as a signposting and navigation mechanism to the complex world of copyright
• Be the place to go to for copyright education
• Be the place where any copyright owner can choose to register works, the associated rights to those works, permitted uses and licences granted
• Be the place for potential licensees to go for easy to use, transparent, low transaction cost copyright licensing via for example digital copyright exchanges (DCEs), acting in effect as a marketplace for rights
• Be one of the authoritative place where prospective users of orphan works can go to demonstrate they have done proper, reasonable and due diligent searches for the owners of those works before they digitise them
By acting as a central exchange for copyright transactions, the hub could prove crucial in pinpointing the value of copyright to the British economy. Data released by the UK IPO back in June of this year appeared to estimate that copyright-focused industries added around £3 billion to the UK’s national accounts annually – though this blog wondered if the actual figure mightn’t be a lot higher. And, as Hooper and Lynch suggested in a press conference yesterday, a UK-based exchange could act as Europe’s – or even the world’s – main digital copyright transactions venue. If that were to happen then we can be pretty certain that copyright would be adding a lot more than £3 billion each year to the national bottom line.
There are questions that remain unanswered; not least, the issue of how the exchange’s continuing operations will be funded. “There will have to be some form of fee structure to keep it running,” said Hooper, speaking at yesterday’s press conference. “But what that structure is and how it will work is ahead.”
Funding issues aside, the copyright hub should, in theory, make the lives of licensors and prospective licensees a lot easier. Rather than having to approach numerous rights holders, publishing houses and collecting societies, those seeking use of copyrighted material – whether an individual, an SME or a large corporation – will be able to obtain a licence in a single location. All in all, the existence of a central hub should allow for a more efficient and transparent copyright marketplace, where costs are reduced for prospective licensees while rights owners are paid accurately for use of their IP.
Any measures that reduce the complexity and expense of licensing, protect the IP owner’s rights and therefore encourage and facilitate a culture of collaboration are to be welcomed. It just waits to be seen what happens next. If the UK copyright hub does prove to be a success, it could provide further impetus for the creation of exchanges for other types of IP.
IP management, Licensing, IP politics, Copyright, IP business, IP valuation