Creative sector's work on streamlining copyright licensing recognised

Out-Law News | 25 Sep 2013 | 5:51 pm | 3 min. read

The creative industries have agreed to fund the Government-backed 'Copyright Hub' until the second phase of the online platform for rights holders begins in 2014, according to the body set up to oversee the project.

In a new report (36-page / 349KB PDF), the Copyright Licensing Steering Group (CLSG) set out the progress made by member bodies including the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) and PRS for Music in implementing recommendations to streamline the copyright licensing process.

The CLSG was established by the creative industries to act on the recommendations of former Ofcom deputy chairman Richard Hooper's feasibility study into the creation of a new digital copyright exchange. Hooper and co-author Dr Ros Lynch recommended that a new Copyright Hub be established to allow rights holders to licence the use of their content through a simpler, more transparent and less costly system. A pilot Copyright Hub, providing links to a limited number of copyright-related organisations, began operating in July.

"This report demonstrates the real progress that has been made in implementing the recommendations of the Hooper/Lynch report," said CLSG chair James Lancaster. "The work over the past year has demonstrated clearly the power of all parts of the creative industries working collaboratively together with the support of Government to come up with pragmatic and workable solutions to the challenges of copyright licensing."

The work of the CLSG is split into six 'workstreams', each of which is responsible for the implementation of one of Hooper's six recommendations. Although setting up the Copyright Hub was Hooper's central recommendation, the report also highlights the publication of a voluntary Code of Practice for creating and retaining 'metadata' in images, and a number of initiatives being brought forward to make it easier for educational establishments to obtain licences to use copyrighted works. This included the recent work of the CLA and NLA media access on harmonising licensing terms.

The report also highlighted progress made by the CLSG's two workstreams related to the music industry. These cover the development of new digital music licensing arrangements for start-ups and app developers, and the creation of new joint licences so that small workplaces and amateur sports clubs need only obtain one set of permissions in order to play recorded music. Additional work on developing standard identifiers for audiovisual work is also progressing, although the report makes it clear that creating the right data infrastructure will be "a medium to long term process".

According to the report, phase '1b' of the Copyright Hub will begin towards the end of 2013. The site's functionality would remain largely the same at this stage, although more suppliers based both in the UK and internationally would be added. During Phase 2, which will likely begin in early 2014, the site will switch from a simple "signposting and navigation device using hyperlinks" to being able to return information directly to users via "federated" searches. It will also be able to perform simple licensing itself, if suppliers agree.

The report warned that in order for Phase 2 to succeed, suppliers would "need to reach agreement about some key technical matters", such as the standard identifiers being worked on by another CLSG workstream. If successful, Phase 3 could then be used to create the infrastructure needed to support the 'diligent search' requirements as part of new rules on the licensing of so-called 'orphan works'.

The CLSG did not clarify long-term funding arrangements for the Copyright Hub, as discussions are ongoing. The site is due to become self-financing from October 2014, and it is anticipated that this will come from a combination of membership fees, a percentage of the income from licences that happen as a result of the Hub and advertising. However, the creative industries have agreed to provide funding for the next year, to cover Phase 1b of the Hub, according to the report.

Other next steps identified by the CLSG include the creation of a reconfigured Copyright Hub Board, chaired by Richard Hooper, to take forward the development of the Hub and the work of the CLSG's other workstreams. This Board will continue to work closely with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the CLSG said. An industry-led Advisory Committee will also be established to ensure industry involvement in the development of the project, according to the report.