Digital age renders copyright regime 'unfit for purpose'

The UK’s copyright licensing process can stand tall among its international competitors but it is “not yet fully fit for the purpose for the digital age,” a government-backed study has found.

Reporting on phase one of the Digital Copyright Exchange Feasibility Study, Richard Hooper said he was pleased to find that the UK’s copyright licensing process “compares well” to its rivals.

But having consulted with the business community, he believes there is “much that still could be improved” with licensing (- quite apart from the feasibility of a DCE), particularly when assessing its processes for viability in a digital environment.

He spoke of difficulty in finding out who owns the rights to particular digital content; the complexity in the way rights are licensed, and the barriers to paying creators “fair and accurate” shares of the revenues created by their content.

It is also problematical (and pricey) to license copyright for the “high volume/ low value transactions that characterise the digital world,” Mr Hooper said, while an absence of “common standards” for sharing rights information doesn’t help.

“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,” he reflected.

The study also found that consumers, assuming that they follow the law, lose out because they have less of repertoire available online than they would in the physical world of CDs and DVDs.

Talking of the need to find “industry-led solutions,” Mr Hooper said he hoped phase two of his looking into a DCE would come up with how to offer consumers a “wider range of sensibly priced and easy to use digital services.”

Moreover, he said such envisioned services should be available over a fixed internet connection or through a smartphone.

But an intellectual property expert in internet matters sounded less than excited, seemingly because he feels the “controversial problem” behind why an online shop of protected content is being explored, was overlooked.

“Disappointingly,” argued Michael Coyle of Lawdit Solicitors, “the report fails to tackle copyright infringement, stating that it is ‘not about copyright infringement/piracy’, despite its own admittance as being stated a key concern of those consulted during the process.”

Still, Mr Hooper’s report does state that a DCE could "reduce copyright infringement by making it much easier for prospective rights users to find out, from an authoritative source, who owns what rights and pay the owners accordingly".

Editor's Note: Related Reading -

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