SCA welcomes the Hargreaves Report

The Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) is delighted that the Government has decided to endorse all the recommendations made by Professor Ian Hargreaves outlined within his independent review of Intellectual Property (IP) and Growth.

Stuart Dempster (Director, SCA) gives some personal thoughts on what this will mean for public bodies, business and the public

“If I were the boss of HMV I think I’d be calling some of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to see what cloud based services we might be able to offer customers to store and offer online access to as to the format shifted digital files following the UK Government’s acceptance of a limited private copyright exception recommendation. This may, of course, be a somewhat fanciful speculation, but the potential implications of the UK Government’s acceptance of all ten of the recommendations made in Digital Opportunity – A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth published in May 2011 are significant, if enacted.

It is particularly gratifying that the Government recognises a range of issues relating to advances in medical research being inhibited through to works being locked away and “crumbling in archives” (orphan works) under the current IP regime. A wind of digital change is blowing across the barriers to innovation and growth.

The Government  acceptance that the poor provision of high quality empirical evidence to support IP changes in the past  and the effects of “lobbynomics”(heavy and sustained lobbying) being less than satisfactory is welcome. We hope agencies like JISC, TSB, Research Councils and others, including business may be able to help to contribute to a more effective evidence based decision making, perhaps via the proposed Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy. It is refreshing to see that the need for firm  economic evidence is linked international interests in IP and the Government strategy is set out in The UK’s International Strategy for Intellectual Property launched today. This recognises the significance of the international framework in which UK intellectual property laws sit. Support for cross –border licencing proposal made by the European Commission illustrate the holistic international approach being taken here.

It will be interesting to see which agencies and/or businesses actively engagement in developing the Digital Copyright Exchange as the Government recognises it is not best paced to undertake this itself. The opt in i.e. non-compulsory, but voluntary scheme may present some novel business opportunities downstream akin to other digital market place innovations seen elsewhere.

The proposed exceptions permitting limited private copying (format shift), the widening of non-commercial research to cover data and text mining, digital archiving in “libraries” and parody are likely to have significant impacts on formal and informal  curation, research  and scholarship.

We welcome the potential liberation of up to estimated twenty five million objects “locked up” and rotting in UK galleries, museums, libraries and archives, classified as “orphan works” (where no traceable copyright owner exists is), of course, moderated by “diligent search” and other considerations. It will be interesting to see whether the firm economic evidence cited earlier is considered as part of the proposed “diligent search” obligations, Previous “diligent search “obligations have been seen as unaffordable, particularly for medium to large scale digitisation projects with the administration costs far outstripping any licence or royalty payments made. The success of extended collected licensing proposals will, of course, be grounded on “fairness” in terms of costs and benefits, so it will be interesting to see how this proposal is implemented.

Just as the information super highway, such a quaint term in retrospect is cluttered, with a contractual diaspora so too  are issues relating to patents. Here patent thickets, the spread of patents into new areas of innovation and delays and costs of all kinds are recognised and remedies proposed. We wait to see whether to IPO findings in the autumn leads to any tangible improvement.

In a similar vein the IPO research into the relationship between design rights and innovation and the potential simplification of the design rights system due later this year will be of interest. The potential inclusion of unregistered designs in the proposed Digital copyright Exchange or equivalent will again make an interesting business model case study we think.

The recognition by the Government that elements of IP enforcement are perhaps uneconomic or unreasonable, for example private copying, is perhaps an example of a “penny dropping” regarding the unenforceability upon a national pastime of format shifting (VHS to DVD, CD to MP3 for example)  for personal reasons. The plans to drop some of the more controversial parts of the Digital Economy Act, such as site blocking and the proposals surrounding a “small claims” track to cover copyright, designs and possibly some trade mark cases via a revamped Patents County Court seem sensible.

Emergent internet business models continue to play a role in scoping how to construct a distinctive digital product offering that people are willing to pay for. We believe that these will support the development of new legitimate markets which the Government wishes to foster with others.  This will, with improved IP legal and business advice being proved by the IP and other activities cited earlier will we believe see a new era of digital innovation.”

Stuart Dempster (Director, Strategic Content Alliance) 03/08/11

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