Stephen Edwards, Partner at law firm Reed Smith and a recognised copyright expert, comments on the Government's response to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth:
Digital Copyright Exchange
"The most radical proposal made by Hargreaves was for the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange to make it easier for rights owners to sell licences for the use of their work and for others to buy them, with swifter and increasingly automated transactions and a register of rights ownership.
"The Government wants to see such an Exchange established by the end of 2012. This is a hugely ambitious project, in which the Government has yet to determine what its own role should be.
"Hargreaves recognised that a stick and carrot approach would be needed to induce rights owners to participate, suggesting for instance that the full range of remedies for infringement would not be available to rights owners who did not offer licences through the Exchange. The Government hasn't endorsed that, simply saying that experience in the United States and elsewhere suggests that a voluntary system can be incentivised. But no other country has attempted a scheme on the scale envisaged here. It will take a remarkable group of people to drive the processes needed to bring this into being at all, let alone within 18 months.
"It is also very welcome news that the Government intends this Autumn to bring forward proposals for schemes to enable both commercial and cultural uses of orphan works and, crucially, for extended collective licensing schemes to be introduced as well.
"In combination - but only in combination - these have the potential to enable the rich archives of radio and television programmes and other audio and audiovisual works held by the BBC and many other organisations to be made available to us all. They remove the risks of infringing the copyright of copyright owners who can't be found and they obviate the immense administrative costs of making individual contracts with the many thousands of rights owners involved.
"In the 18 months since provisions to introduce these were removed at the last minute from the Digital Economy Act, organisations such as the British Copyright Council have worked hard to address the concerns of rights owners about such schemes, in particular those of photographers, so there should not be any serious opposition to the proposals now."
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Notes to editors
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