Deep in the heart of the Hargreaves Review, some really powerful gems lurk
It is always dangerous to make early comments on substantial pieces of work like the Ian Hargreaves Review of IP which published this week. But having given it a first reading, there are a couple of things that jump out as being brilliant and completely engaged with the best thinking around at the moment.
Firstly his concept of establishing a UK Digital Copyright Exchange is very clever. It would provide the means to reform the UK’s licensing regime without having to dismantle or seek to alter the existing institutions. But instead build a new layer on top of them which ultimately could become the only layer necessary for licensing content.
Secondly he proposes a series of levers that would act as incentives to existing rights owners to cooperate and put their rights into the Rights Exchange. His suggestions (para 4.34 of the Review) essentially created an ingenious carrot to go with the stick that is the Digital Economy Act. What Hargreaves proposes is that if people want to get the benefits and remedies of the law, in going after significant copyright infringers, then they must also put their work into the Rights Exchange and collaborate with a forward looking, constructive development of the market. He also proposes “giving creators the right to withdraw from future publisher/record companies contracts where the latter are not marketing a creator’s work through the exchange.” This is a brilliant recognition of both the opportunities in creating a new friction-free market and also shows a great understanding of the agendas of the different stakeholders.
These incentives in some respects lie at the very heart of the Review as does the concept of the Exchange. The much needed solutions for how to handle Orphan works both in the commercial and non-commercial sectors are based around the creation of the Rights Exchange too. It will be interesting to consider how this proposal fits with the evolution of the EU’s Global Repertoire Database and the WIPO proposal that are being developed concurrently.
I’m sure that there are more gems, nuances, hints and subtleties buried in this carefully considered report, back to the reading. Now the challenge will be how to ensure that all these good proposals are adopted by Ministers. I welcome your comments.