The Dangers of Weakening Copyright

The Times has today published a letter from 7 copyright licensing agencies, working together under the banner Licensing UK. It draws attention to potential threats to the creative economy arising from broad exceptions to copyright being proposed in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

The text of the letter is below and the full Licensing UK statement, supported by 21 copyright management organisations working on behalf of creators and publishers can be found here


Sir, The UK’s creative sector stands united with the shared concern that the Government’s future intent is to erode creators’ rights and their ability to make a fair living from their work.

The Intellectual Property Office will imminently publish its copyright exceptions policy statement. Cloaked in the guise of simplicity for consumers, the Government seems to be set on an irreversible course that will damage both economic and cultural growth. The effect will be that these proposed changes to copyright law will mean that British authors, songwriters, publishers, performers, artists, film and TV producers and many others stand to lose.

It is mainly US technology companies that stand to benefit from such a permanent value transfer. Creators and creative businesses are pro-consumer. All they seek is the right to license businesses where value is being created. That’s fair and equitable. Cutting off a creator’s right to earn isn’t.

David Pugh, Managing Director, Newspaper Licensing Agency;

Robert Ashcroft, CEO, PRS for Music;

Lavinia Carey, Director-General, British Video Association;

Gilane Tawadros, Chief Executive, Design and Artists Copyright Society;

Mark Pemberton, CEO, Association of British Orchestras;

Deborah Annetts, CEO, Incorporated Society of Musicians;

Peter Leathem, CEO, PPL


David Pugh

Managing Director, NLA


Publishers to Vote UKIP?

Copyright legislation is often strongly influenced by international law and treaties. UK rules have historically been driven from the Berne Treaty obligations (signed by most countries), as updated through the World Intellectual Property Organisation discussions, and EC legislation is increasingly important. The current EC copyright directive (the policy framework national governments are meant to enact) is eleven years old, and moves are being made to update it. A meeting is being held this Wednesday to set out the broad direction. 

NLA has recently been given a copy of the European Commissioners ‘orientation’ document on which this discussion will be based.  It describes the ‘value chain’ of publishing and using content: reading online newspapers are, it says,  one of the main uses of the internet. But content publishers are assumed to exist regardless of any change in their ability to protect investment. Journalists and photographers relying on newspapers for employment would want that to be true;- but they know, to their cost – it is not. Many UK newspapers are losing money and being forced to make journalists redundant.

The EC is instead focused on consumers’ desire to use the new toys that technology has given them – described in a ESRC report last week ‘its like having a cake but not being able to eat it’, and business users (the long arm of Google, probably) finding copyright an expensive nuisance. But there is no attempt at all to address the difficult question ‘why would you create, or pay someone to create content?’.   The ‘Facts and Figures’ annexed to the document includes this;-

• The print and publishing sector shrank by 7% between 2000 and 2010, and in the print sector, advertising revenues are shrinking 1% annually.

The analysis ignores the facts, and their implications. It’s natural to want your cake and eat it. The EC has been here before.  Ask the Greeks.

Andrew Hughes

Commercial Director, NLA


The Digital Copyright Exchange takes shape

The NLA is delighted with the news earlier today that James Lancaster, former head of Rights and Business Affairs at the BBC has agreed to chair the Copyright Licensing Steering Group. The CLSG is the body that will oversee the work-streams leading from Richard Hooper and Ros Lynch’s aptly named Copyright Works report.
The NLA is one of a number of licensing agencies and publishers that is funding the development of the Copyright Hub during its first year, in order to get it off the ground. We were pleased to be able to organise a roundtable event earlier in November with Richard Hooper and Ros Lynch, the co-authors of the report, which addresses the practicalities of putting in place a creative industries funded hub.
It was an opportunity for copyright experts, collecting societies and specialist bloggers and journalists to get the inside track from Richard and Ros on the hub's development.  It was a useful to review the opportunities and obstacles this project is bringing and I wanted to provide a summary below to those who couldn’t make it.
This doesn’t cover everything of course, but I hope the below gives you a flavour of the discussion.
A constructive approach
Richard Hooper has certainly learnt from the tough experience putting together the Royal Mail modernisation report.  Rather than rushing to conclusions, Richard and Ros had a two stage process, beginning with a phase 1 diagnostic report which identified the problems and sparked debate  rather than offering solutions.  Having obtained feedback and identified the points of conflict, the phase two report was naturally considered and well received.  This approach has certainly won respect  - rather than antagonising creative industry stakeholders vital to the solutions – avoiding the mistake of some previous Government initiatives!   As one participant pointed out, this could be a first!
How the hub will be progressed
Ros Lynch is now on secondment from the civil service and getting the Copyright Licensing Steering Group off the ground whilst Richard Hooper is putting together a Hub Launch Group with representatives from across the creative, tech and publishing industries.  The aim is to get an ecosystem of interoperable, linked databases/services designed, funded and up and running as soon as is possible, with strong governance, clear vision and industry leadership.
It was also stressed that the hub doesn’t seek to replace existing initiatives, such as the Linked Content Coalition, but to facilitate transactions, for example through an overarching reference database that will ensure a complete a picture as possible is available for end users.
Where to start?  Standards, Databases, incentives, content silos
I won’t try and cover the many opportunities and hurdles along the path to a successful hub, but will leave you instead with three points discussed in the meeting:
Firstly, it was noted that the technology available should be relatively straightforward and the team are keen to get input from developers and database specialists to build a prototype.  A potentially harder job will be to align all the business interests of various stakeholders and ensure that the incentives are clear.
Secondly, there is a clear reason for the hub to focus on high volume / low transaction-cost copyright for example a broadcaster wanting a particular video clip.
Thirdly, this initiative gives a clear signal to government that the copyright and creative industries are serious about streamlining the process of obtaining rights – which will be good for creators and good for businesses that want to make use of their work.
Today’s announcement is another important step along the way.

David Pugh

Managing Director, NLA


£48,000 up for grabs in Digital Inclusion Innovation Content 

Are you a digital guru, app developer or data expert?  If so, take a look at the Digital Inclusion Innovation Contest, it could be right up your street.
The competition is a joint initiative with IC tomorrow, the Newspaper Licensing Agency, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Scope, and the University of York.  Three awards of up to £48,000 each are available for successful applicants able to develop a prototype application or service which addresses the specific challenges of each partner organisation. 
The winners will be picked from companies or developers who enter services or applications that aid digital inclusion in three categories of innovation:
• one award of up to £48,000 for the development of a prototype service or application in the ‘sensory assistance’ challenge area
• one award of up to £48,000 for the development of a prototype service or application in the ‘inclusive media’ challenge area
• one award of up to £48,000 for the development of a prototype service or application in the ‘accessible Internet of Things’ challenge area
The NLA will be assisting in judging the second, inclusive media challenge award.  Working with the NLA’s eClips service, the RNIB has been able to amend the way in which data can be interrogated and then delivered, creating some software that will converts the NLA data into high-quality synthetic speech.  The files RNIB derives allow users to navigate easily and seamlessly within the newspaper or magazine, and give the choice of access through synthetic speech or text.  This is a real help to visually impaired people who want to read newspapers.
This challenge asks developers to develop a new app to improve the experience for visually impaired mobile users.  The deadline for applications for the IC tomorrow ‘Digital Inclusion Innovation Contest’ is Tuesday 8 January 2013 at 12noon.
It is open to any UK-based company or developer – so please get involved!

David Pugh

Managing Director, NLA


The Government’s uncomfortable relationship with Copyright

The report released this week by the All Party IP Group in parliament probably made for uncomfortable reading in some quarters of Whitehall.   It cast a light on the role of Government in protecting and promoting IP - and had some harsh words for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The group of MPs, led by John Whittingdale the influential Chairman of the DCMS select committee, suggests the IPO has lost the confidence of a significant number of its stakeholders and outlines a number of recommendations necessary to restoring trust:

1. The IP Minister should take on the role of being a champion of IP, supported by a small
team in the IPO, or within BIS
2. The IPO should revert to seeing IP as a property right
3. The Government should be as concerned to promote the creation of new IP, as how
existing IP is accessed
4. Ministers in BIS and their senior officials need to have greater oversight of the IPO
5. The IPO’s oversight of copyright policy should be moved to DCMS
6. Senior officials and Ministers at BIS should take a greater role in ensuring other
Government departments consult them when developing policies affecting IP

Here at the NLA we welcome many of these recommendations – especially the emphasis on the ‘P’ in IP as a property right. We certainly share the concern of other rights holders at the tone and direction of the IPO consultation published back in December 2011.  This consultation, Implementing the Hargreaves review, and accompanying impact assessment were widely thought to be ill judged – and based on little in the way of unbiased evidence.

The existing system of copyright licensing provides a fair and accessible means to acquire rights and collecting societies are constantly innovating to address the challenges brought by the digital age.  Within the realm of newspaper copyright the NLA has developed, and will continue to develop, a suite of licences and database services to meet the developments and changes in its marketplace.

We are keen to work with Government and stakeholders to ensure the right balance is struck between protecting the creators and end users. 

Things do seem to be moving in the right direction.  The IPO has been undertaking some useful research such as this report; which shows the true value of copyright to UK plc is far higher than original estimates!

David Pugh

Managing Director, NLA