I was kindly invited to attend a ‘narrow table’ discussion session about the key challenges facing innovation and startups when dealing with a copyright system that is clearly not fit-for-purpose in an increasingly digital world.
London’s “Silicon Roundabout”*
This session focused on teasing out the real needs (and supporting evidence thereof) for a Digital Copyright Exchange, as recommended in the Hargreaves report, which would help to address key challenges facing UK innovation and entrepreneurship in the world of digital. This is part of the diagnostic phase of an independent feasibility study led by Richard Hooper.
Attendees included entrepreneurs and start-ups (in music and other digital media) as well as participants from the publishing, legal, academic, public sector, and consulting industries. Highlights from the discussions include:
- Academic publishing – e.g. universities get double-charged for publishing academic works; i.e. for researching the content, which is provided free to the publisher, and again for the published work
- Costly clearance – e.g. according to one attendee, the British Library’s Sound Archives proportionally spent the largest amount of time negotiating / clearing rights for the materials, than on creating archive itself.
- Orphan works – DCE could provide a useful mechanism for managing orphan works.
- Small / Medium Scale Enterprises – SMEs and startups experience the most difficulty with licensing, especially as they lack the resources and money to go through the hoops in negotiating with rights owners. E.g. the lack of a clear and comprehensive licensing system hampers start-ups in establishing their business models (this is particularly acute with music streaming services)
- Price versus value – Collecting societies may not have the right pricing models for music content. E.g. On-demand streams are considered more expensive than scheduled streams or download.
- Physical versus digital copyright – The old world approach of counting instances of works for remuneration does not translate well for digital copyright and new usage scenarios
- Rights owners are scared – they don’t wish to make the wrong decision and risk cannibalising their existing business
- Software Licensing – The DCE should also extend to include software and software licensing
- Navigation – This is a cross industry issue with copyright. A single platform approach to cover all licensing needs would be great as this would provide a single point of reference for information and guidance for users
- Government copyright – It was suggested that government owned IP (e.g. ordnance survey data, census, land or electoral register data) should be covered by the DCE
- Social Media Data – Increasing use of social media data streams for powering new applications makes it a crucial element for future services which will need addressing, sooner or later, perhaps in the DCE.
The above are only a few of the sentiments expressed on the day, and attendees were encouraged to send in their responses to the call for evidence as soon as possible.
Overall, this was a very informative session which seems to confirm something I’ve often stated, which is that the key role of any new digital copyright mechanism should be to simplify and facilitate the use of copyright material within and outside the digital environment. If the Digital Copyright Exchange had those as key principles, it would go a long way to ensuring successful outcomes and delivery of the promised benefit of over £2 Billion to the UK economy.