Dealing in digital rights: will the Copyright Hub show the way forward?
By Mark Owen
Copyright has been a favourite punch bag of politicians, users and platforms ever since the internet first became mainstream, widely blamed for not being adapted to the new environment.
The process of clarifying how copyright applies to digital services has been a tortuous one but court decisions and legislative tweaks have increasingly removed areas of doubt. Two significant tasks remain, however. The first is deciding whether the copyright regime we now have is actually the one the world needs: a perhaps impossible task but one the EU has bravely taken the first steps towards with its copyright consultation. The second is optimising the systems and mechanisms through which rights in copyright works are traded, and that is where the UK’s Copyright Hub comes in.
The Copyright Hub was perhaps the one big idea that came out of the lengthy Hargreaves Review into UK copyright. Prof Hargreaves saw an answer to the dilemma of working out who owned a copyright work and how to get a licence from them in a digital copyright exchange, an idea the government later described as being akin to the Amazon marketplace. He also identified transaction costs as a hurdle to be overcome. Many uses of content would justify only very small licence fees and as soon as there was any human intervention in the licensing process the cost would become too great. But there was no system for agreeing and paying these. An exchange would ‘make it easier for rights owners, small and large, to sell licences in their work and for others to buy them. It will make market transactions faster, more automated and cheaper. The result will be a UK market in digital copyright that is better informed and more readily capable of resolving disputes without costly litigation’…
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