18 May 2011

Copyright - "Digital Opportunity"

The final Hargreaves report starts out promising, addressing the various interested stakeholders while noting that these extend past authors and publishers but also other interested parties. There is also an explicit statement about the need for 'evidence based IP policy' and not lobbynomics - a voice of reason in a sea of chaos. It would seem that Hargreaves has identified the lobbying as skewing the previous reviews. The need to adapt evidence based policies rather than adhering to the lobbying of powerful interests (such as the music industry) is not only a bold introductory statement but a very accurate one.

The main proposal is the 'Digital Copyright Exchange' which will allow easier licensing of material thereby reducing transaction costs. Another major proposal is to allow the use of 'format shifting' (allowed by the EU but not adopted by the UK). Sensible proposals such as reducing transaction costs and enabling licensing of work to ensure revenue streams for creators whilst allowing consumers and businesses to use work protected by copyright seems like a governmental epiphany, so simple and straightforward yet so effective.

Licensing however, will bring its own problems and those should be monitored and adapted where necessary. The huge task of centralising a copyright exchange should not be understated or rushed through in an attempt to be seen as proactive.

The government response to the review so far only extends to Vince Cable who has been supportive of the recommendations. Further commentary and parliamentary discussion will now be interesting. Will the lobbyists continue to lobby so forcefully in light of Hargreaves' opening comments? Will consumers have a new-found respect for the copyright regime in the UK?

Personally, I think it will take some time for the information to sink in and seep through to the general public but for those who have been following the copyright debate - the review will come as welcome common sense. This may be affected by the fact that the Gowers review had a similar impact, yet many of the recommendations were subsequently shelved - will that happen with the Hargreaves review?

Overall the review is well laid out and although my aim is to critique - is it wrong to actually agree with much of the content?

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