The government has put aside £150,000 to help fund stage one of the Copyright Hub initiative, which brings together various creative industry trade bodies and groups in a bid to create some kind of ‘exchange’ that demystifies and simplifies the licensing of copyright materials.
As previously reported, a Copyright Licensing Steering Group and Copyright Hub Launch Group was launched last November in response to a paper written by Richard Hooper called ‘Copyright Works’, which was in turn a response to Ian Hargreaves’ 2011 government-instigated review of the British copyright system. Hargreaves proposed some kind of ‘digital copyright exchange’ to simplify the licensing process for licensees, and Hooper’s report considered in more detail how that might work.
In reality the Copyright Hub will mainly be an online information resource, helping those looking to licence content of any kind to identify what copyrights are involved, who might own them, what kind of licenses are available, and whether any given use will be licensed directly by rights owner or via a collective licensing organisation like PRS or PPL.
The ultimate wish is that that resource could also bring together the various global copyright databases different content industries have or are developing, which make it easier to identify rights owners, ultimately creating a uber-database of copyright. Which is sort of a poor man’s copyright registry when you think about it, but while most people in the rights industries support a Hub, few seem keen to debate the pros and cons of full-on copyright registration.
Phase one of the Hub programme is less ambitious than all that though, basically getting an initial website online, which is what much of the £150,000 will be spent on (given it’s a government-funded website, that’ll probably get us a WordPress site with a sign-up form, but in theory that should be enough to get a decent basic information resource built).
Confirming the investment, the UK’s IP Minister James Younger told CMU: “The Copyright Hub will simplify copyright licensing for consumers and I am delighted to announce this funding to enable industry to begin their work. Databases of copyright works such as those held by collecting societies and publishers already exist. However, government has listened to concerns that consumers are unsure who they should go to if they are looking for information about obtaining a licence, particularly if multiple rights are involved”.
He added: “The funding announced today will help industry to start building the Hub website sooner and engage with schools and Further Education colleges to help streamline educational licensing. Above all, it chimes with the government’s aim to provide a further portal to assist businesses to grow faster and to boost our creative industries”.
Richard Hooper, who is still involved in the venture as Director of Copyright Hub Ltd, added: “The Copyright Hub, linking to a wide array of databases and digital copyright exchanges, has the clear aim of helping consumers, rights users and small businesses find their way through the complexity of copyright and thus allow them to license copyrighted works much more easily and at a lower transaction cost. The Copyright Hub until today has been just an idea. Today it begins to become an exciting reality. We are especially grateful for the speed with which the Department of Business and Intellectual Property Office provided some start-up funding thus giving a real boost to this whole idea that emanated from the Hargreaves Review”.
From the music side, UK Music boss Jo Dipple told CMU: “The copyright hub is very welcome and it is something the music industry has enthusiastically embraced as we try to push for further growth in the global digital marketplace. With this new funding the project has been given a real kickstart and it also demonstrates a further, very welcome commitment from the government, whose continued support – in partnership with our industry – is needed to underpin the Hub’s success”.
Meanwhile Peter Leathem, CEO of the record industry’s collecting society PPL, added: “We are delighted to be involved in the Copyright Hub. PPL’s collective licensing of recorded music and videos is itself an example of existing work by rights holders to aggregate copyright on behalf of 60,000 record companies and performers, manage data and simplify licensing. The Copyright Hub will build on such structures and databases across the creative sector, becoming a valuable tool to further assist copyright users in obtaining licences and finding out more about copyright and licensing. This will hopefully contribute to the further growth of a creative sector that is already culturally and economically crucial for the UK”.
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