Music, film and e-book copyright licensing will be streamlined to help boost the digital economy under proposals unveiled by the Government.
A report commissioned by the business secretary Vince Cable called for an online â€œCopyright Hubâ€ to act as a one-stop shop to allow digital download and rental services, to ensure they are not infringing copright. Rights holders will also benefit from greater sales of their work, it is claimed.
Web firms who want to license content have often complained that navigating the existing arrangements set up by royalty collection societies is too complicated and expensive, restricting innovation and consumer choice.
â€œSetting up an industry led and industry-funded Copyright Hub will help maximise the potential for creators and rights owners on the supply side and the wide range of licensees and users on the demand side,â€ said Richard Hooper, a former deputy chairman of Ofcom and author of the report.
He was asked to investigate the feasibility of a Copyright Hub after it was one of the main recommendations of last yearâ€™s Hargreaves Review, a broad look at intellectual property in Britain.
The Hargreaves Review was viewed with suspicion by many in the music, film and publishing industries, who believed it had been instigated at the behest of Google in an attempt to water down copyright law.
Today, however, they welcomed Mr Hooperâ€™s recommendations, which would allow them to offer licenses via the Copyright Hub on a voluntary basis.
â€œWe both welcome and support Richard Hooper’s findings and will work with our partners in the industry to meet the challenges he identifies, providing a better licensing environment for all,â€ said Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of PRS, which collects royalties for record companies and artists.
The Publisherâ€™s Association, whose members are increasingly concerned by the rise of e-book piracy, also gave the plan a qualified welcome.
â€œThe PA has consistently made the case that publishers are in the business of facilitating access and innovating services to ensure that works are available in the market,â€ said chief executive Richard Mollet.
â€œWe have long believed this aim is best achieved through market solutions, working with the grain of copyright and not eroding it. We look forward to working with others in the publishing sector, and the music, film and TV industries, to take up Hooperâ€™s challenge to take forward the proposal to develop the Copyright Hubâ€.
Work has begun on the detail of how the Copyright Hub would work in practice, but the Department for Business emphasised that industry should lead the initiative and pay for it.
“The creation of an online copyright hub… will enable copyright owners to register their works and for users to obtain and pay for licences with relative ease,” said Neil Mohring, a copyright lawyer at Eversheds.
“[However], it is proposed to be a voluntary system and many copyright owners may choose to keep their works outside the hub”.
“The enormous challenges should not be allowed to undermine this project as it has the potential to act as a catalyst for copyright licensing and to provide a welcome boost for the creative industries”.