Tuesday 31 July 2012

Hooper's Copyright Hub takes shape

Richard Hooper has today published his final report on the creation of a UK based Digital Copyright Exchange. The report, Copyright Works:  streamlining copyright licensing for the digital age can be downloaded here and sets out four main recommendations under the remit of setting up a not for profit industry led and industry funded Copyright Hub which will serve a number of functions including

* Information and copyright education
* Registries of rights
* A market place for rights - licensing solutions
* Help with the orphan works problem

The accompanying press release gives a little bit more detail saying that the Copyright Hub will have five main purposes, to:

Richard Hooper 
- act as a signpost and be a navigation mechanism to the complex world of copyright
- be the place to go 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
- be one of the authoritative places where prospective users of orphan works can go to demonstrate they have done proper, reasonable and due diligence searches for the owners of those works before they digitise them.

With Richard Hooper saying  "Setting up an industry led and industry-funded Copyright Hub will help maximise the potential for creators and rights owners on the supply side and the wide range of licensees and users on the demand side".

There are very positive and glowing comments from Business Secretary Vince Cable who said "The idea of a 'copyright hub' is an ambitious undertaking and one that could clearly yield great benefits for the UK's creative industries and consumers. It is potentially a ground-breaking step forward that will help make copyright licensing fit for 21st century." 

UK Music, and the UK's two music collection societies PRS for Music and PPL all made very positive noises and Nick Evans-Lombe, COO of Getty Images said: "We are impressed by the speed and no-nonsense manner with which Richard Hooper and Ros Lynch have addressed the key impediments to speedy innovation, across what are the hugely diverse, inherently international, digital copyright markets. We welcome the way they have dug deep into the underpinning principles of copyright licensing, without losing sight of the critical importance of maintaining a strong copyright regime, which is essential to enable the creative industries to continue to flourish" and from  Sarah Faulder, CEO of the Publishers’ Licensing Society who said: "Richard Hooper's phase two report Copyright Works, sets out a focused and worthwhile vision of a multi-faceted copyright hub to explain and streamline the process of copyright licensing.  Making it easier to get appropriate copyright licences will benefit both rights holders and those who want to build their businesses on copyright content or otherwise be able to use copyright material lawfully" adding "By recognising existing good practice, stimulating new initiatives in the course of his work and identifying issues that need urgent attention, Richard has encouraged the creative industries to collaborate and he has motivated them to take forward his vision. The scale of the task ahead in order to turn his vision into reality should not, however, be underestimated."

All that said, I have to say I found it hard to get excited by the final Report - all of the main problems have been identified and Richard Hooper's approach seems to have been more than diligent, intelligent, inclusive and well thought out - and certainly anything that helps with licensing must be a positive move forward for the content industries in the fight against piracy. But, and its a big but, the Hub will not be 'compulsory' for content owners to join for low value high volume consumer facing schemes, which means that many digital users will just say it has failed, as they need a 'one stop shop' to become legitimate - and there seems to be no real carrot for content owners to be included. I wonder if some commercial operators will bother - although I should make it clear that I would not suggest that using the Hub should be compulsory and clearly Hooper knows that high value low volume licensing will be excluded (citing Universal's licence with Spotify as an example of something that would be outside of the Hub).  

The carrot of some advantage of registering with the Hub might have helped this blogger make more sense of it  - giving the Hub some extra legislative teeth that could be used against infringers for example, or some other advantage. Secondly (and again something that might attract the criticism that there is no 'one stop shop') the Hub is a UK initiative and is not global or even pan-European in its scope - although on the last point I would say "not as yet". PRS For Music's CEO Robert Ashcroft was one who mentioned the need for a "Global Repertoire Database" as a key building block in what "must inevitably be an international project", something the Report itself does acknowledge, noting the importance of data and noting the music industry's aspirations to have a global database for musical works, and for sound recordings, and recommending that the audio visual industry adopts standardised identifiers,. Hooper clearly realises the need for the Hub to include all content owners within and across media sectors against a backdrop of multi-media and borderless end users. As an aside, for a very interesting take on how to streamline music licensing (and collection societies) in Europe, see para 132.

Finally, there seems to be little onward Government support or involvement - it's left to the content industries to make Richard's "vision" a reality - and as I read it, they have to meet the cost. Maybe that's a positive move, far better than having a Hub imposed from above - but I wonder if really legislation might better give the Copyright Hub a spine and some claws (if they are needed). 

Hooper proposes that the Report's co-author, Dr Ros Lynch, now leads a steering committee (the Copyright Licensing Steering Group) to put his proposals into action - and potentially form a cross sectoral and collaborative Copyright Hub Launch Group - I presume with some Government funding for that although Hooper seems to suggest that at least for a year the creative industries have agreed to fund the Licensing Group.

The full report can be downloaded here http://www.ipo.gov.uk/dce-report-phase2.pdf 

No comments: