Interview with Richard Hooper
The Copyright Hub, Ltd. (UK)
For podcast release Monday, July 21, 2014
KENNEALLY: The creative industries and the technology companies that carry their content may share a common customer, but little else. Where it comes to copyright law, their differences have often flared into open war. Technology companies dream of rewriting copyright law to free up content. Content creators search for ways to employ technology in their own favor to prevent piracy. Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book.
Richard Hooper has devoted his career to the converging worlds of media, communications, and technology. In 2011, the British government asked Richard to review the digital copyright exchange idea that had come out of the highly regarded Hargreaves report. This became a major project looking at ways of streamlining copyright licensing processes and organizations, which led to the creation of the Copyright Hub based in London. As non-executive chairman of the Copyright Hub Limited, Richard Hooper is calling for a truce in the copyright wars and has suggestions for forging a lasting peace. He joins me now in the Copyright Clearance Center offices outside Boston. Welcome, Richard.
HOOPER: Good morning.
KENNEALLY: Indeed. Well, good morning. Welcome to our office and welcome to the United States. Exactly a year ago Richard, you told us about the launch of the Copyright Hub. Have we come any closer to seeing the end of World War Copyright, as you call it?
HOOPER: Well, it’s a very big issue. The anti-copyright forces are strong, the pro-copyright forces are strong. Neither side is giving too much space to the other, but I think there is a recognition that the war is, in the end, unproductive. It is using up resources that could be better spent elsewhere, and I think it is not actually helping the end consumer get what they want, which is quality content.
KENNEALLY: Well, one of the claims made by at least one side in that war is that the law needs to be changed, that copyright law is, to use the phrase so common in the UK, not fit for purpose. How do you take that argument?
HOOPER: Well, I don’t accept that argument. Really, if you wanted to summarize the work that I’ve done over the last two and a half years, it would be saying that before you change the law again – and I know the United States of America is looking at another big copyright reform exercise – but before you do it, before you therefore reopen the walls of copyright, make sure that copyright licensing processes and organizations are actually fit for purpose, are easy to use, are well suited to the licensee base, the customer base. I think if you do that, my experience in the UK is that the requirement for changing the law is less, and that’s a big step forward.
KENNEALLY: In fact, there have been some real differences in the approach. There have been efforts to open up exceptions in the UK copyright law and I believe it’s your observation that where there have been exceptions proposed, they’ve been far narrower. So, there is beginning to be a closing of the gap of understanding.
HOOPER: There is definitely evidence that over the last three years, two and a half years, the exceptions that were originally recommended were wider than the ones that are now being legislated. That seems to me a very sensible direction. It’s terribly important for me to say that I am not saying there can be no changes to copyright law. That’s ludicrous. For example, you can’t copy from your CD to your MP3 player.
KENNEALLY: In the UK.
HOOPER: In the UK, private copy. That’s against copyright law. That’s clearly silly and can be changed. So, there are changes that need to be made, but I’m saying that actually where the big change is, is in the creative industries making licensing simpler and thus obviating the need for extensive changes to the law.
KENNEALLY: I know that’s a point you stress, which is to make licensing simpler. The other point that I think is important to you is around education. So, not only should the licenses be simpler, but people should understand more clearly what copyright is about.
HOOPER: I think it’s an essential part of our website. I think it’s an essential part of our campaign. The word copyright can be rather sort of negative. Protecting my copyright – words like that. Funnily enough, one of the things that we’re finding, which is again, very positive is that in the digital age, a typical consumer user, lo and behold is almost certainly also a creator, because he or she is posting stuff to Facebook, he or she is posting videos to YouTube, and therefore, actually, the person who was a passive consumer if you like, passive user, is now becoming a creator. So, suddenly, we haven’t got that sort of user/creator conflict, which sits behind the anti-copyright, pro-copyright war.
KENNEALLY: Well, I think there was an interesting instance where people began to realize that what they were creating might have some value. There was recently some proposed changes in the terms and conditions for the use of Instagram. Instagram made something of a claim that they owned all the photographs posted to Instagram, and photographers in the United States and everywhere really were upset by that. They want to keep their photographs for themselves.
HOOPER: Absolutely. Let’s take images. The images industry, I think, in many ways, raises the most difficulty because of the sheer volume, the sheer quantity. If you talk about feature films, there are a few. If you talk about images, you’re talking millions. Now, the problem – and again, this is the UK and it may not be the same in the USA – is that images tend not to have – the metadata saying who owns that image tends not to persist. So, for example, a typical web publisher, a newspaper or broadcaster on their website will use an image and the software they use strips out the metadata. Now, that is unacceptable. It’s actually against the law in the UK, and this is this something that the Copyright Hub has been working on. It’s a very serious issue. It really upsets the photographers. They are right to be upset.
KENNEALLY: Metadata, for those not familiar, is really, essentially, a way of identifying a particular piece of digital content.
HOOPER: Yeah, it’s saying Chris Kenneally owns this photograph and this is where you can find him or his rights manager or whatever.
KENNEALLY: Indeed. So, really, there’s a responsibility on the creative industry side in your view to do better at maintaining records, at establishing identifiers. They have a responsibility.
HOOPER: Well, I often sort of misquote President Clinton on this. If you remember the famous quote from President Clinton was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” “It’s the economy, stupid.” I think that was during an election. I re-quote him as saying, it’s the data, stupid. If you ask me what’s the one thing that I would want people to take away from this podcast, I would say it’s are you sure that data is fit for purpose, is the work identified properly, is the person who created the work identified properly, are the rights associated with that work identified properly, because if that is the case, then we can move into a machine to machine world where a lot of that can be done below the surface, below the radar.
KENNEALLY: Right. If I can add to, it’s the data, stupid, I would say, well, it’s the licensing, stupid. The data enables that licensing to happen.
HOOPER: Absolutely. If you take something, Chris, like text and data mining – I don’t know whether it’s a big issue in the US, but in the UK it’s a big issue. Researchers complain that actually, it’s quite difficult to monitor and analyze lots of articles, lots of academic material, and therefore they go and they say, therefore, it should be made an exception. Now, my response is the exact opposite. I say, no, it shouldn’t be made an exception, but there may be bits on the corners. But I say to the academic and scientific publishers, make sure that a researcher wishing to do text and data mining can be licensed in a sort of sensible way, at a sensible price, and then he or she is not going to complain to the nearest politician, bring in a new law, making text and data mining an exception to the copyright.
KENNEALLY: So, that’s what you call the big idea, that is a single click, a single query, get permission, move on.
HOOPER: The big idea, which has really become, I think, the central vision of the Hub is that a piece of digital content has attached to it a piece of metadata, an identifier which tells you at a single click where you can go to license that content in order to reuse it.
KENNEALLY: For the listeners here, we’ve brought up Instagram. That’s a very common use of photography online. So, we’re not talking about professional photographers. We’re talking about professional photographers and amateur photographers. That gets us to a discussion about the long tail, the very end of things where there is a high volume potentially of transactions and to manage that, if the Copyright Hub is going to succeed or any other kind of digital exchange, it’s going to have to do so at a fairly low cost.
HOOPER: Right. This is the heart of the matter. In the analog age, you had a relatively small number of high value transactions. Now, those continue in the digital age, and I’m not really interested in them. I’m looking below them in terms of the market to the high volume of lower price transactions. So the family that wants to put this music track on their wedding video for their daughter’s wedding next Saturday, that’s got to be a low cost in terms of the transaction cost. It’s also got to be sensibly priced as well. If those happen, the long tail of users are going to be accommodated and very important, the long tail of uses.
I was with one of the television companies the other day. They said we have got the most incredible archive of news clips of Mick Jagger and the Stones doing this, that, and the other. People will use it and reuse it if we can sort out the licensing and make it (inaudible). Now, Mick Jagger may say that’s my copyright and I don’t want anybody touching it, in which case, there’s nothing you can do, but I think most people are reasonable. They want their work to be reused as long as it’s reused sensibly and decently and legally.
KENNEALLY: Now, in the UK, you mentioned in the education market space, for a single headmaster of a school, it might be a requirement that he or she have to work with 12 different organizations. There’s been an effort recently to simplify that, to reduce the number of interactions that are required to get the proper licenses. The result, it’s already beginning to be clear that you can reduce the cost of transactions, but you can also grow the revenue.
HOOPER: Absolutely. I think this is what this is all about. I have conversations with people in the creative industries around the world in which I say well, is one dollar better than no dollars because, actually, at the moment, we’re talking about no dollars. When we launched the pilot website last year, we did some market research. We came up with a really interesting figure: 38% of rights users – that’s to say people who want to reuse content, exactly our target area – they said, they didn’t reuse material. So we’re talking one in three found some content they wanted to reuse. They didn’t use it. So, either they did nothing. They didn’t use it. They stopped reusing it or they pirated it. Now, as far as I’m concerned, I think as far as you’re concerned, CCC is concerned, your publishers, that is negative because if they don’t use it, that’s zero revenue instead of one. If they pirate it, I call that minus one. Actually, in the end Chris, it’s very simple.
KENNEALLY: What’s interesting to me is that it’s also important to individuals because we have individual authors now who are publishing their own work. Certainly in the music industry it is so much easier than ever before to record your material and make it available. So, this would have a benefit not just for the large corporations.
HOOPER: I had a conversation with an author three days ago. She came up to me and she said, look, I want to understand whether I could connect to the Copyright Hub with my work as an author or is it just for collecting societies and the big battalions. I said, look. I said, absolutely you can connect to this. This is your stuff. You own it. You can decide what you do with it. If you decide to license it directly, that’s your business. Now, you may upset the collecting society, but frankly, you have that right.
KENNEALLY: Indeed. Well, Richard Hooper, we appreciate your joining us today. Richard Hooper is non-executive chairman of the UK Copyright Hub Limited and we appreciate your coming and speaking with us at Copyright Clearance Center.
HOOPER: It’s been most enjoyable, Chris. Thank you very much.
KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought after materials, including millions of books and ebooks, journals, newspapers, magazines and blogs, as well as images, movies and television shows. You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at our website copyright.com. Just click on Beyond the Book. Our engineer and co-producer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.