The Government has today announced that Richard Hooper, formerly of Ofcom and the BBC, will head up a feasibility study to develop a Digital Copyright Exchange, one of the key recommendations in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property. With over 20 years experience in the information and communications industry, Hooper seems a sensible choice for this project on the face of it; he is certainly no stranger to challenging projects, having led an independent review into the Postal Services Sector.
The Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) is envisaged as a means to boost economic growth in the creative sector by lowering the costs of licensing and improving access to copyright material for businesses and consumers. However, the Review recognised that:
“A range of incentives and disincentives will be needed to encourage rights holders and others to take part [and that] governance should reflect the interests of participants, working to an agreed code of practice.” (Recommendation 3: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipreview-finalreport.pdf)
As a matter of opinion, a functioning digital rights marketplace should ensure the following:
1. That rights holders are fully supportive and willing to allow their content to form part of the DCE;
2. That the right technical people are involved to ensure that the technological infrastructure is fully functional and supported (too often in the past technical expertise around copyright-related schemes has been overlooked, to great detriment);
3. That licences available to purchase are regulated – one of the main problems faced by those who want to use other people’s material is the debilitating sum which is charged, often leading to the failure of many projects such as documentary films. An affordable and regulated licensing structure is key to facilitate the success of this scheme.
The Government has also indicated that it wants the DCE to be self-sustaining and free at the point of access for users.
The feasibility study will look at the licensing challenges facing different sectors and should take all these issues on board, basing its findings on evidence from a number of stakeholders. Views must be acquired from not only the creative industries themselves but also from consumers and individual creators to ensure a suitable balance of opinion. The study will run in two stages: firstly, defining the problems of copyright licensing across the sectors, and secondly to bring forward appropriate industry-led solutions with a view to how these could be implemented. Findings from the study will be reported to the Government before the summer 2012 Parliamentary Recess and will provide the groundwork for a functioning exchange.
Image 'Exchange_Place' from Flickr by _SiD_, used under CC-BY-NC-ND licence