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Hooper: UK copyright licensing could be improved

March 29, 2012

By Colin Mann

Richard Hooper –a  former Deputy Chairman of Ofcom – has published his diagnostic report on how fit for purpose is copyright licensing for the digital age. Hooper was appointed by Business Secretary Vince Cable to lead an independent feasibility study into a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) on 22 November.

The report is based evidence collected over a period of three months from December 2011 to March 2012 and is the first phase of the Digital Copyright Exchange Feasibility Study.

The report concludes that relative to other countries in the world, the UK’s copyright licensing processes compare well. But there is much that still could be improved.

Working closely with the creative industries themselves, Hooper identified a number of problems such as:

  • Complexity in the way rights are licensed
  • The complexity of organisations in terms of the numbers involved in licensing rights
  • Less availability of repertoire (e.g. films) in digital services over the Internet than in the physical world of CDs and DVDs
  • Difficulty in finding out who owns the rights to particular content in specific countries
  • Difficulty in paying creators fair and accurate shares of the revenues created by their copyright content
  • Difficulty and expense in licensing copyright for the high volume/low value transactions that characterise the digital world
  • A lack of common standards and a common language for sharing rights information between creative sectors and across national borders.

Hooper said he was pleased to report, on the basis of the evidence presented to the study, that copyright licensing processes in the UK rank amongst the leading countries in the world.

“But there is still a range of problems with copyright licensing that needs attention and sorting them out will, I have no doubt, strengthen the UK’s leadership role in creative industries even further. If, in the second phase of the work, we can find industry-led solutions to these problems, and I am confident that we can, then innovation and economic growth across the UK’s creative and technology sectors will be further accelerated,” he said.

“And the British consumer will be able to enjoy an even wider range of sensibly priced and easy to use digital services (films, TV, music etc.) over the mobile and fixed Internet. As a result, any justification for copyright infringement/piracy by consumers will be yet further weakened,” he concluded.

Phase two of the feasibility study will begin in April and will consider a range of solutions to the problems identified including a DCE. The recommendation for a DCE was put forward by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his May 2011 report . Hooper will report his recommendations to Government before the 2012 summer Parliamentary Recess.

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