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 firstname.lastname@example.org.