Friday, November 05, 2010

Copyright, the Prime Minister and Likeminds

This time last week I was attending the Likeminds conference concerning creativity and curation during the digital age. Andrew Dubber was speaking and giving a rousing call to change copyright laws to prevent hoarding of works without publication and to create an online digital archive.  A 'use it or lose it' kind of approach with a central repository for the greater good.  It was difficult to disagree with the majority of his argument and made me consider "licences of right" that can be granted under design and patent laws if they are not used.  The problem with copyright in the UK is that it is created automatically without the need for registration - administering such a scheme would be a huge burden.

Image: Nicholas Tarling /

Then on Thursday Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced  (as reported on the BBC website) that

"... I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the Internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America."

This is a positive statement and I agree that the UK must increase its innovation economy but I don't think that simply changing IP laws is enough.  The UK needs to create the right mentality, financial incentives, working environment and support networks to foster not just innovation but entrepreneurship.

In relation to Copyright my view is similar to Laurence Kaye's who says that the current copyright regime is 'fit for purpose'.  He adds that we need technology solutions rather than changes to the law to enable quick and cost effective clearance searches and licensing.  
It seems to me that to facilitate such a solution we would need a system of registration or perhaps "tagging" for digital copyright works that could have a searchable database.  This would also allow a system of "licences of right" to be implemented for copyright.  My view is that we need a mixture of technological and legislative developments to make Intellectual Property laws not just fit for the Internet but for all digital platforms such as mobile apps. 
This is going to be a tricky balancing act for the government with numerous competing interests and a new generation of consumers who are undergoing a psychological shift in attitude to copyright piracy.   I also think that any changes will need to be global rather than UK specific. There is little point in changing UK laws if any start up company can not take advantage of this change in the global market.
I am watching this space carefully as any radical change in IP laws would hopefully create a flood of new and exciting start ups.


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