In May this year, the latest in a long list of reports on IP, the Hargreaves Report, was presented to the government. The report includes a number of key recommendations that include:

  • establishing a digital copyright exchange to facilitate licensing;
  • introducing new copyright exceptions to bring the law up to date, including for format- shifting, parody, noncommercial research and library archiving ;
  • creating a scheme for the use of orphan works;
  • taking measures to reduce the density of patent “thickets”; and
  • introducing a small-claims track for low-value IP claims.

However it is the digital copyright exchange proposal that has attracted the most interest. In brief, the idea is to establish a fast, reliable and secure licensing exchange, consisting of a network of interoperable databases, allowing potential licensees to quickly identify and contact the relevant rights-holder. This concept of a ‘one stop-shop’ for copyright clearance has been met with cautious approval, with one of the key concerns being that participation in the scheme would be voluntary meaning it would only succeed if rights holders chose to participate.  

The report suggests that participation in the exchange should be incentivised by advantages, including requiring ISPs to take a range of technical measures against infringing subscribers and making a search of the exchange a prerequisite of using orphan works. However, the effect of this would be to create a two-tier system of protection with those who are reluctant to relinquish control of their IP having remedies taken from them.  

There are many positives to be taken from the report but quite whether any of these are taken up by the government, which is due to publish its response before the summer break, or whether ultimately rights holders participate in an exchange will have to be seen.