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Digital Content – by everyone for anyone? (Update)

I wrote this blog in February, reflecting on Arts Council England/BBC’s partnership on The Space. This blog adds an updated perspective.

John Wyver of Illuminations reviews the progress of The Space here in August 2012. Interesting to see ACE’s significant ongoing support of the project (and of the NESTA Digital R&D Fund in England), despite its current lack of openness to any and every English arts organisation; accessibility; and audience participation, engagement, and social sharing tools.

Arts organisations whose work is on The Space have given over their IP and copyrights to the project exclusively for its pilot duration (until October).  One can only hope that English cultural rights holders are encouraged to/have the chance to secure their rights in the proposed copyright hub, otherwise the arts will yet again be in the position of giving up their rights in order to secure a place on a digital channel they are told has a wider and larger audience than their own (think: classical music and Radio 3).

The July 2012 results of the IPO’s independent Digital Copyright Consultation are published in this report: Copyright works streamlining copyright licensing for the digital age, by Richard Hooper and Dr Ros Lynch, recommend the introduction of a copyright registry. This is of particular interest to rights holders because currently, only patents and trademarks can be registered. Says Hooper:

“There is a strong move in the world for this registry. If you want to battle infringement, then it is important to be able to register copyright and the hub will be the place to register such a right; the registry will not be mandatory. So far, people have been very interested in this… Rightsholders will probably pay a fee to register copyright in the hub, otherwise it will be difficult to see how we could keep the hub going. There is tremendous support around the idea.”

There are two main recommendations from the report. The first is the creation of a UK-based copyright hub that focuses on “high volume of automatable, low monetary value transactions”. (The second is a steering group, to drive the creation of the hub forward and to ensure its profile and interrelationship with other nations.)

In a digital age, anyone can have their own digital channel(s) to their audiences, and so keep the revenue generating potential of their rights for themselves. Surely it is more economically sustainable for a cultural organisation producing digital media to be in a position where they can sell non-exclusive licenses to the BBC and other broadcasters/publishers/networks should they choose to.