Transcript: UK Copyright Hub Launches

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Copyright Hub UK Launches Phase 1
Interview with Richard Hooper

For podcast release Monday, July 8, 2013

KENNEALLY: In November 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced an independent review of the UK’s intellectual property framework, examining how IP and copyright laws and regulation support economic growth and technological innovation. The following spring, Ian Hargreaves, professor of digital economy at Cardiff University, reported back to government with 10 recommendations, including a groundbreaking vision for a digital copyright exchange.

Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series, I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book. The UK government has taken the Hargreaves report to heart, and around the world, executives, legislators, authors and artists are all watching closely. Today in partnership with a dozen leading media and copyright organizations, including Copyright Clearance Center, the UK Copyright Hub launches its first phase of an ambitious effort to leverage technology to make copyright work.

Joining me from London is Richard Hooper, who chairs the Copyright Hub launch group. Welcome Richard.

HOOPER: Good day.

KENNEALLY: We’re delighted to have you join us and we’re very excited to learn about the Copyright Hub on its launch day. We will tell people briefly about your background. Richard Hooper has devoted his career to the converging worlds of media, communication, and technology. He began his career as a radio and TV producer in the BBC and was a founder of the Open University. At BT, British Telecom, he ran the world’s first commercial videotext service, Prestel, the precursor to the Internet. From 2002 to 2005, he was deputy chairman of Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industries in the UK, and from 2005 to 2007, he was chairman of Informa, the world leader in business-to-business information.

His most recent work has focused on the impact of the Internet on traditional media businesses, and the whole area of making copyright licensing fit for purpose for the digital age. As we mentioned, he chairs the Copyright Hub, and as it’s launching today, I suppose we should start with congratulations, Richard, and I’m sure this is very exciting for you because you’ve been involved with the preparations for this and have written extensively on this. Indeed, you recommended building the hub only a year ago, in a report you called “Copyright Works: Streamlining Copyright Licensing for the Digital Age.”

So tell us first of all, who else is involved? We have, I believe, a dozen organizations who’ve provided services for phase one.

HOOPER: Yes, we’ve had a marvelous support from, really, the four key industries – your own, the publishing industry – that’s to say text publishing, the audiovisual industry, film and television, images – what we call the images industry, which is still pictures, and lastly, of course, the music industry. So we’ve had tremendous support from those industries, and representatives of all of them are involved with us, including CCC, on the launch today.

It’s been an extraordinary journey because the hub sort of grew out of the feasibility study I did for the British government beginning at the end of 2011. What we really looked at was copyright licensing in its broadest sense, because a digital copyright exchange is effectively an automated way of giving people a license to do something that they want to do with copyrighted work. It is frictionless, it is low transaction cost, and one hopes it is easy to use. So that was the heart of the matter.

But we came across, really, three major issues that came straight at us. The first one was the copyright world is incredibly complex. Please help me find my way around. So that’s the first role of the hub, to find out, find your way through the maze, and try and reduce the complexity of some of these issues.

Then the second issue that came out the whole time was people have difficulty in finding out who owns what rights to what. So that is the second, if you like, significant theme of the hub – finding out who owns what rights to what, who owns the copyright to such and such a work

And then of course, thirdly, building up from those two, making licensing easier by automating it, it doesn’t have to be automated. If somebody wants to put their telephone number on the hub, that’s fine, but we would prefer to see a sort of automated e-commerce service, that’s something that CCC members know all about.

KENNEALLY: As we mentioned at the top, this is really an effort that has been spearheaded by government in the UK, and so as a result, the rest of the world is really watching to see where this is taking you, and the rest of us. Because, of course, in the Internet age, communications, copyright – all of these are very much global issues. I understand that there’s some estimates around the importance of the creative economy to the UK. Currently, I believe, £1 in 10 of your exports come from the IP industries, and that amounts to something like £36 billion, and employing one and a half million people – for our American audience, about $50 billion of your economy. If the Copyright Hub is successful, it’s estimated that it will add up to £2.2 billion further to the economy by 2020.

So this is all very much an effort that the private sector has taken up, but it has been really driven by the government in the UK, is that correct?

HOOPER: Well, I think it was spearheaded by the government but I think in the work that I did with my excellent co-author, Dr. Ros Lynch, who’s a civil servant from the Department of Business, very quickly, it became clear that this is something that the creative industries themselves wanted to do. So I’m very careful to point out, today of all days, on the launch of the hub, that it is industry-led. This is not led, in that sense, by the government. It’s led by the industry with some pump-priming from the government, with some leadership early on. But right now, I see it as very much an industry-wide collaboration.

Now, you make the point about the Internet. There seem to me two characteristics of the Internet the hub tries to reach out to. The first is, yes, it is borderless. It goes beyond the national state. And the second one, which is as important, it is fundamentally multi-media. That is to say, if you go into the Website of a newspaper today, you will find text as you always have done, you will find images as you always have done. But you will also find moving pictures, which you have never done before, which 10 years ago, no newspaper would deal in moving pictures.

So the Internet is fundamentally multimedia, it’s fundamentally borderless, and the Copyright Hub is trying to respond to that. Now, some of your description of the hub frightens me, (laughter) it’s a very ambitious project and so it’s extremely important that we start in a sensible place. We don’t try and create everything on day one, so we call it a consultation pilot. We want people to go onto the site, copyrighthub.co.uk, and look at it and send us their comments so that we can build from there. Because I’ve had enough experience of IT projects to know that the idea that you build it and they will come usually doesn’t work. It usually involves spending a great deal of money rather wastefully.

So it’s a startup which is organic, which is step by step. We’re just taking the first step which is really using basic hyperlinking and then moving on from there.

KENNEALLY: Again, stressing that, as you point out, this is phase one of a multi-phased operation. And I know you’ve said several times that there is no way at all to put in place a Copyright Hub and stand back and let it work on its own. This is a project that’s going to be one that almost by definition will be always under development.

HOOPER: Yes, already we’ve learned some really things which is that there are different views as to whether the hub itself, the hub Website does the licensing or the licensing is done on Websites connected to the hub. Now that might sound rather pedantic, but in fact it’s been a rich source of discussion. And the central theory of the hub is that it takes you to places, to Websites in the UK and around the world where you can license copyrighted works, rather than the hub doing it itself.

Having said that, there may come times when people say, here is a licensing function, for example possibly payment, would the hub agree to take on that function for us, and in which case, if we’re asked like that, we will probably say yes. But it’s not the hub trying to compete with its connecting Website members, it’s the hub trying to be useful and trying to get the user. And the user is essentially the rights user, the person who wants to use copyright for some particular purpose, whether it’s a YouTube video, whether it’s music on the wedding video, whether it’s music on the small business Website. It’s getting that person straight through the hub to the place that they want to go. It’s also – and this important – it’s also a place for creators to go because right from the start we are tackling the quite delicate and sensitive issue of rights registration, the registration of rights information.

Maria Pallante, the great Register of Copyright in the United States, in the Copyright Office, part of the Library of Congress, said to me only last week when I was in Washington, that registration of rights is part of this story. Now it is not mandated, it is not required, you do not have to do it. Copyright exists without registering it, but my goodness me, if you’re trying to find out who owns what rights to what, then registration is part of that story.

KENNEALLY: I know you asked the question early on whether copyright licensing was fit for purpose in the digital age, and it’s a question a lot of people have asked. It is important to point out that your contention is that efficient, responsive copyright licensing can happen, and it’s important to leverage technology for all of that. But there is an argument out there – you’ve hear it I’m sure – that copyright should simply get out of the way. Why do you think it’s important for a strong copyright regime to be maintained in the digital age?

HOOPER: You touch on a very, very sensitive subject. When we started the work, the first thing we noticed was shells going over our heads and thudding into the landscape around us. There is a war out there between those who are against copyright, against any notion of paying for things on the Internet, and those people, particularly the creative industries, who believe that copyright is central their development and their importance and to economic growth. So the battle between anti-copyright and pro-copyright wages in every country in the world and it is not going to die away tomorrow.

Now, my argument would be if copyright licensing – that is to say, if the creative industries, the publishers – if they make their licensing easier, then a lot of the criticism from the anti-copyright forces will drop away. I remember one of the first music service providers that I met, it was four undergraduates from Cambridge University, recently graduated from Cambridge University, set up a small Web radio station in Camden Town in the center of London – just north of the center of London, and the leader of the group said to me it took them nine months to get a music license, and then after that nine months, they then looked across the channel to Europe and realized they only had another 26 licenses to go. That is not ease of use of licensing in the digital age. Those are issues that need sorting out, they are being sorted out, and I think as a result of that, the war between the anti-copyright and the pro copyright will be lessened.

KENNEALLY: We are speaking right now with Richard Hooper who chairs the Copyright Hub launch group for the Copyright Hub from the UK which launches today. And Richard Hooper, there is a balance, it sounds like you’re saying, between the principles of licensing and the importance of access, and that’s really where the Copyright Hub is going to play an important role.

HOOPER: Absolutely spot on. It is a balance. Why is it a balance? First of all, because copyright, as CCC would acknowledge and demonstrates on their Websites, copyright ease is a form of monopoly. It’s a form of exclusive right. You are not allowed to use my work without my permission until I’ve been dead 70 years. So that gives me quite a long time to exploit my work. Now, that is a monopoly. Therefore, you have to get the balance between monopoly rights of the copyright holder and some rights of access to that work. And I think that’s where the law always struggles. It’s difficult to get that balance right. Again, in the United States, Maria Pallante has announced a very significant overview of copyright law, and these issues will yet again be rehearsed.

Now, in the UK, for which I am grateful, we are coming to the end of a cycle of changes to the law. My argument in the UK is that so many resources of lobbying, etc., etc., go into changes to the copyright law, with the pro forces, the anti forces all spending money trying to persuade legislatures to go it there way. What I’m seeing in the UK is we’ve got to the end of that cycle. We’ve got basically the law pretty much sorted out. There are still one or two things in relation to exceptions.

Now let’s invest those resources that have been going into lobbying and going into lobbying legislators, let us put those resources into making sure your licensing processes, and very importantly your licensing organization, is fit for purpose. If you do that, then I think the pressure on politicians to change the law will be lessened, benefit number one. The pressure on politicians to do more about copyright infringement and enforcing it, stopping it will increase, and that’s a second benefit. And thirdly, the most important, the size of the pot of revenues will be larger because we are not aiming at the top end of the market. The Copyright Hub is not about J.K. Rowling walking up to the gates of Warner Films, saying would you like a film with Harry Potter? That’s not our world, that’s at the top end, highly customized, lots of lawyers, high transaction cost. We are coming down to the middle and bottom of the market where small businesses, where individual users want to license copyrighted work easily for specific purposes.

KENNEALLY: Well, I think what’s interesting there, Richard Hooper, is the notion that this partnership – the government and the very important independent players, the businesses – are getting together to provide some kind of a solution in order to, as you pointed, to reduce that pressure on legislators to make unwelcome changes, I’m thinking of the famous line from Mark Twain. He said, whenever it comes time to change the copyright laws, that’s when the idiots assemble. So he was always concerned, and really, on any side one would have concern when the laws get changed. I think I’m hearing you say that that voluntary system, a partnership that brings together all the various media sectors and the government itself can make positive changes that will reduce this need for legislative changes.

HOOPER: Let me give you an example, and again copyright examples usually are rather nation-based, so this may or may not be true in the United States. But here in this country we have a situation where in a typical school or a typical college, you have something like 14 different rights, 14 different types of copyright from doing a school concert to recording and using a television program. Those 14 rights are administered by 12 different organizations, 12 different licensing organizations, and as we said in our first report, that is not easy to use for the average school administrator, school teacher. Fourteen different rights, 12 different organizations, that looks complicated.

Now we’re not saying you don’t have to have copyright licenses, that’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is, if you make that easier, then there will be less argument for broadening the exceptions to copyright in the educational sector. And indeed, a year or so ago, the first exception that came out of the British government was really quite widely drawn in education, but given the work that the educational sector has done here by making that licensing process easier, using single organizations rather than multiple organizations, so the exception has actually been narrowed. There’s an example of where copyright licensing innovation has actually reduced the need for major changes to the copyright law.

KENNEALLY: And finally, with regard to those changes in the copyright law, you mentioned by way of update that UK legislation is nearly ready for consideration in Parliament. Have you any advice for the equivalents in the U.S. or across Europe, whether politicians or private parties as to get to that point? You mentioned Maria Pallante, our current Register of Copyrights in the United States, and she’s begun to take information around possible copyright reform in this country, but we almost expect that to take years, possibly even decades.

HOOPER: That is the problem. The honest answer to your question is looking out to other countries who are about to undertake copyright law reform. My heart does drop a bit. I think there will be so much renewal of the wars of attrition between the pro- and anti-copyright armies that will stoke that belligerence and that aggression on both sides. I’m not taking sides. By and large it’s often seen as the technology companies or some technology companies being anti-copyright. But I’m not taking sides, I’m just saying the moment that you start to talk about that, all of that starts again, the warring the conflict.

So I’m quite pleased that what’s happened here is we’ve actually approved the main legislation in Parliament, and we’re not just working on secondary legislation in relation to the exceptions. I suppose what I would say is even if you’re spending energy and time on changing the law, look to your process and look to your organizations because sometimes that is where the problems have lain, and that is what has caused, in a sense, the anti-copyright forces to come together and ask for changes in the law from politicians.

KENNEALLY: Richard Hooper, chair of the Copyright Hub launch group, comes to us today from London on the day of the launch for the UK Copyright Hub. Thanks so much for joining us on Beyond the Book.

HOOPER: I much enjoyed it.

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 e-books, journals, newspapers, and magazines, and blogs, as well as images, movies, and television shows. You can follow us on Twitter, find Beyond the Book on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes, or at the Copyright Clearance Center Website, copyright.com. Just click on Beyond the Book.

Our engineer 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.