Hargreaves to recommend online ‘rights’ exchange

An independent review into how the intellectual property system can better drive growth and innovation is set to recommend that a revolution in copyright law could make the UK as important a centre for the distribution of digital content as it became in financial services after the Big Bang, according to the Financial Times.

The Hargreaves report on intellectual property, commissioned by the government from Professor Ian Hargreaves in November 2010, is understood to urge the government to create a digital rights exchange, a one-stop online shop for clearing the use of copyright content, to “make the UK the best place in the world to do business in digital content”.

Such an exchange would make it easier for businesses wanting to use original content such as music or film to identify copyright owners and create content-based businesses. The move would turn the UK into a global hub for innovative digital content companies such as music, film and video games businesses, the report will say.

Although such a move is likely to be welcomed by Internet start-ups, studios, labels and other content owners could be reluctant to hand over their libraries to a digital exchange, the idea for which was proposed in the lead-up to Lord Carter’s Digital Britain consultation, although rejected in the final report.

Benefits for content creators would include improved routes to markets, a record of ownership of rights and a clearer understanding of licensing terms and conditions, the report will say.

“The prize is to build on the UK’s current competitive advantage in creative content to become a leader in licensing services for global content markets; in short to make the UK the best place in the world to do business in digital content,” Hargreaves – a former Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC and Editor of The Independent newspaper, and currently Chair of Digital Economy at the Cardiff UniversityCentre for Journalism Studies – will say in his review.

While the government should leave it to the industry to set up a digital rights exchange, Hargreaves recommends it should appoint a digital tsar to oversee design and implementation and use its influence to bring companies into the fold.

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