KevinFitzgerald_print_Head__ShouldersKevin Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, The Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd writes that it is generally accepted that the creative industries make a valuable contribution to the GDP of the UK economy through the creation of innovative products and net export earnings.

In recent weeks, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and Imperial College completed a study of the measures of UK investment in copyright related industries, which revealed that in 2009, the latest year for which government figures are published, it was actually worth £3.2 billion higher than the previous official data had recorded, at £5.1 billion.

 

The creative industries, including the publishing, music and film industries, regard the UK copyright system as an enabling force in delivering this economic value, with copyright offering a strong incentive by providing a return which rewards creators and investors and supports the production of new work.

 

The IPO and Imperial College study, recently published in ‘Updating the Value of UK Copyright Investment’ recognises the increased importance of intellectual property in today’s economy and reflects the growing role of knowledge investment in artistic assets protected by copyright, such as books and art.

 

However, for the ordinary consumers that want to use these works, copyright can seem like a complex and convoluted obstruction.

 

To translate this into everyday life; schools feel it keenly as teachers want to teach rather than navigate the ins and outs of copyright and in business, employees face time and financial constraints which do not leave room to apply for clearance and permissions.

 

As content becomes more available and the number of formats increases, there are more rights and permissions to be sought. At the same time there is a growing expectation from users that available content should be free-to-use, or that permissions should be easily, quickly and cheaply obtainable.

 

The perception persists that copyright works are still being kept ‘locked-up’ by rights holders and that a lack of transparency means users are not aware what permissions they need and how to obtain them, while costs can be prohibitively high.

 

This sentiment was reflected in Richard Hooper’s final report for the IPO into the ‘Digital Copyright Exchange’.  In his report Hooper lists one of the main characteristics of the ‘Copyright Hub’ as being “easy to use, transparent and offering low transaction cost copyright licensing”. He also accepts the need for it to act as a navigation mechanism providing copyright education.

 

If these perceptions are accepted by government then it doesn’t take into account an equally valid industry view that users don’t generally seek permissions and don’t want to pay to use something that is available to them already. But maybe the ‘Copyright Hub’ can bridge this gap in perceptions?

 

The media often like to present these views as opposing positions in a ‘copyright war’. However, what is required is not rhetoric, but simply a new model of equals.

 

This could be achieved by creating an independent platform to which users and rights holders would come on a level, being owned neither by the rights holders, nor by users and being the place where a mutually beneficial transaction takes place - the passing of information, permissions and licensing.

 

At the very least the model proposed by Hooper, where the copyright industry takes the lead, can create a level of equality through the establishment of a single market place rather than one made up of the fragmented and multifarious rights holder organisations that currently exist.

 

The concept of a Copyright Hub has long been supported by the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) and Hooper’s report is welcomed in this spirit.

 

While CLA intend to be an active participant in the development of the Hub, they are already playing a leading role in the type of industry collaborations that Hooper identifies as being key to the success of such an undertaking.

 

As a leading member of the Rights Industry Forum, CLA have launched a new online portal for schools (www.copyrightandschools.org) which means schools can find out what copyright permissions are required when undertaking an activity and where to obtain licences. CLA are also working together with The Further Education Reprographic Forum to produce a similar navigational portal.

 

For businesses there is a new online facility (www.cla.co.uk/licences/titlesearch) to help licensees to check in just a few seconds, if a publication can be copied; with a mobile app soon to be available allowing them to scan titles with their smart phones for additional flexibility.

 

A recently launched online presence for the CLA’s compliance arm, Copywatch (http://copywatch.cla.co.uk) provides helpful information for employers and employees about best practice and copyright law.

 

Given CLA’s existing relations with the education, business and government sectors’ for licensing, and its comprehensive database of writers, artists, publishers and their works, it is well placed to contribute to the creation of the Copyright Hub, whatever form it finally takes.

 

In any case, if the UK wants to maintain its world class creative industries and the economic value they create, it must reconcile the perceptions held by users and rights holders – and Richard Hooper’s ‘Copyright Hub’ could be a good start.

 

 

Kevin Fitzgerald is the Chief Executive of the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd. (CLA). Kevin joined the CLA in 2007 as Chief Executive and has increased annual collections for the benefit of authors, artists and publishers from £47m to £70m. These payments act as a significant economic catalyst for the creative sector.  Kevin is Chair of IFRRO’s European Group, a Director on IFFRO’s Board, and regularly speaks/mentors on publishing industry matters around the world.  Kevin holds other public appointments/non-executive directorships.

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