Consumer Focus Blog

Consumers’ and creators’ common ground on copyright

1 March 2012

Saskia Walzel_150

Saskia Walzel
Senior Policy Advocate

Our recent event on copyright turned out to be a thought-provoking day with a busy agenda. Consumer Focus and the Creators’ Rights Alliance brought consumers and creators together to discuss: copyright exceptions – which allow work to be reused without the copyright owner’s permission; ‘orphan works’ – where the copyright owner can’t be found after a ‘diligent’ search; and copyright licensing – how to ensure that creators get a fair share of what consumers pay for copyright protected content.

The first panel started a hearty and engaging debate. Later in the day we were joined by Richard Hooper who, instead of delivering a speech, quizzed the audience on what a Digital Copyright Exchange may achieve, encouraging everybody to get involved in his feasibility study. The Exchange would be a source of information about rights ownership and make rights clearance easier.

The discussion was based on proposals to reform copyright law and licensing, following the Government’s endorsement of the Hargreaves review of intellectual property and growth. Consumers and creators could both benefit if the proposed changes make it onto the statute books. Aside from the proposed private use exception, creators are the heaviest ‘users’ of copyright exceptions, such as the one for current events reporting and the proposed exception for parody, where parts of an old work are fashioned into a new work to criticise or poke fun. Not only was everybody in the room a consumer, but in the digital world everybody can be a creator. The news reporting exception will now have to work for journalists and anyone who takes to the blogs.

Common ground was easily found and armed with a discussion guide the audience examined the shortcomings of the Hargreaves review. Two issues cropped up repeatedly: the lack of ‘moral rights’ creators enjoy in the UK; and the unequal bargaining position of creators in contract negotiations with large companies. Creators were keen to stress the link between an automatic right to attribution and a better chance that creators ultimately receive a fair share of what consumers pay. Strong links were also drawn between attribution and quality and accountability in journalism and news reporting.

Common ground identified throughout the day included:

  • broad agreement about the need for automatic moral rights, particularly attribution ie the right of the creator to have their name linked to the work even if they have sold the copyright, and integrity, ie not to have the work associated with something ‘immoral’
  • agreement on the need for better metadata (the data on a file indicating the source) identifying creators throughout the distribution chain
  • agreement on the importance of addressing problems with contracts – both those between end-users and intermediaries, and between creators and intermediaries
  • considerable interest in the idea that copyright, ie ‘economic rights’, could revert to creators after a certain time or when not exploited

We are now preparing to engage a wider audience in the debate. The Parliamentary Internet Communications and Technology Forum (Pictfor) has kindly agreed to host our event Hargreaves Review: The rights of consumers and creators under UK copyright law on 13 March, 6–7.30pm. If you would like to join us, email


  1. As a creator, I found this event particularly informative – and thought provoking, when I found myself looking at things from the perspective of the consumer (which, of course, I also am).

    One of the main issues faced by both consumers and creators is the dominance of large companies – whether these be supermarkets such as Tesco, major record producers/music publishers/film producers such as Universal, major broadcasters such as the BBC, and even the monopolistic rights collection organisations such as PRS and PPL.

    Publicly, these companies often claim to serve the interests of individual consumers and creators, but in reality, this is far from always the case. Hence the need for greater transparency and stricter rules on corporate governance at PRS and PPL, for example.

    I applaud Consumer Focus for taking this initiative to raise awareness among creators of the common ground that they share with consumers and look forward to widening the debate at the forthcoming PICTFOR event.

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    Comment by Mike Collins — 02/03/2012 @ 5:00 pm

  2. Saskia, I thought the panel were great. Really interesting view points from very creative people. I have said bait more in the pictfor blog see;

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    Comment by martin brown — 14/03/2012 @ 4:44 pm

  3. Digital Copyright Exchange: UK Music, PPL, PRS applaud Hooper…

    The domestic music industry has applauded recommendations made by Richard Hooper regarding a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) in the UK.Hooper and report secretariat Dr Ros Lynch recommend measures aimed at streamlining copyright licensing in the digit…

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