U.K. Digital Copyright Exchange Gains Support

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — As world governments seek to find a solution to standardizing copyright and other intellectual property rights, one good idea is coming from the U.K.

In his report, “Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth,” Professor Ian Hargreaves issued a call for the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange, which the scholar estimates could add nearly $3 billion to the U.K. economy.

Hargreaves recommends that “In order to boost U.K. firms’ access to transparent, contestable and global digital markets, the U.K. should establish a cross-sectoral Digital Copyright Exchange,” although the professor does not detail this exchange’s operational specifics, he notes that it should include “a network of interoperable databases to provide a common platform for licensing transactions.”

“An exchange could give rights holders the ability to determine the terms on which their works can be made available for others to use,” stated an analysis by eGov Monitor. “It would also allow consumers to identify rights holders quickly to secure any potential licensing or investment deals.”

Now Business Secretary Vince Cable wants a closer look; announcing a study to determine the feasibility of such an exchange and its predicted efficacy in developing innovation while protecting the interests of rights holders.

Cable wants to better understand the incentives and disincentives needed to compel stakeholders to take part, as well as the role that governance should play, in order to represent the interests of stakeholders adhering to a set of Best Practices.

“A Digital Copyright Exchange would be a global first and could unlock significant growth potential in the creative sector benefiting consumers and businesses alike,” Cable stated. “This is an exciting project which could really open up the U.K.’s intellectual property systems.”

Cable warns that these solutions may not be as straightforward as some would hope, and as such, has appointed former Ofcom Deputy Chair Richard Hooper to undertake a comprehensive review of Hargreaves’ proposal, with a goal of issuing a report in 2012.

“There are a number of issues that need to be worked through to establish its feasibility,” Cable added. “So I am delighted to have someone of Richard Hooper’s stature to lead this important work.”

Not everyone is overly impressed, however.

“The Exchange, which would aim to lower the administrative costs of licensing content for digital services, and give business and consumers easier access to copyrighted material, is a great idea, albeit a great idea that will almost certainly not work and, most likely, never get off the ground,” states U.K.-based music industry site CMU. “Still, you can’t beat a good feasibility study, can you?”

Regardless of the final outcome of the Exchange, it serves as one more step in the ongoing road to reforming international intellectual property rights laws.