Culture is future » Financing and economic models


Always Further - Intellectual Property and Growth: new approach of the copyright in UK

The 18th of May, Ian Hargreaves, chairman of digital economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism, published his study « Digital opportunity, a review of Intellectual Property and Growth » commissioned by David Cameron.

Hargreaves exposes clearly the deficiencies of the current system and proposes new measures for an effective intellectual property that protects and engenders the creation. Its main conclusion is that laws should be adapt edto the digital development and answer particularly this question:  how is it possible to protect the interests of copyright owners without preventing entrepreneurs from exploiting opportunities online? 

Indeed, some copyright laws seem very restrictive towards current opportunities and uses. Hargreaves adds that it would be interesting to introduce a legislative mechanism to update the code of intellectual property. Current technologies, notably of communication, involve copies of text, images and data. Follows one of the first recommendations of the review on the “format shifting”. These days if you download a CD onto an MP3 player – a commonplace practice – this is technically illegal. The Hargreaves report recommend amending this rule, that will leave the industry and government free to focus on more fundamental issues such as tackling web piracy.

Hargreaves raises the problem of orphan works and parodies. He said that we should try to establish a balance between “the economic and social goals, as well as potential benefits for rights owner and implications for consumers”. The review calls then for a number of “exceptions”, based on those of the European Union. It would allow people to do lots of useful things with copyrighted works without needing authorization: medical researchers, parodies and archivist. The “fair-use” – American concept that allows reproduction of parts of works without requiring permission – is not recommended in the report, while many right owners were hostile.

The study proposes also to create, in the UK, the world’s first Digital Copyright Exchange. It is a digital marketplace which make easier for rights owners, small and large, to sell licenses of their work and for others to buy them.  It makes market transactions faster, more automated and cheaper. New intermediary agency would be run by rights holders representing sectors including the music, video game and film industries and act as a swift one-stop shop for clearing the use of copyright content. However, the implementation is very complex, especially to form a unique database. According to the author, this could be a way to solve the issue of "orphan works" by providing a global license managed by this agency. For instance, organizations including the BBC and the British Film Institute have large quantities of archival content that has not been exploited by the industry because there have been issues over who some of the IP rights holders might be.

On the other hand, Hargreaves explains the real economic implications of his proposals: indeed, he argues that if his suggestions were implemented, they would increase the GDP between 0.3% and 0.6%. The Business Secretary, Vincent Cable, welcomed this “clear link between intellectual property and potential economic growth “

Then, this report proposes more flexible rules to maximize the benefits related to digital, while focusing on crucial goals: finance incentive for creation and avoid overregulation.

According to commentators, the review has almost achieved the impossible: pleasing everyone; good news for creators, consumers, creative industries and innovators. Many different actors welcome this analysis of the system and its recommendations, Peter Brawell activist of the Open Rights Group as well as David Lynne Brindley, head of the British Library.

The question is whether these recommendations will involve a significant change in policy, while reports on the subject are increasing in recent years.


To go further