The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

 When I heard yesterday that Richard Hooper had been appointed to run a feasibility study for the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange, I was optimistic that finally someone in authority would bite this poisoned bullet and wreak change on the stifled copyright industries. Regrettably, on examining the Feasibility Study document,  I see little basis for maintaining that optimism. There is an urgent need for a shake-up of copyight licencing in the EU, but sadly this study is unlikely to carry the weight necessary to get it past the mighty copyright industries.


 The Feasibility Study document attempts its own definition of copyright, but unfortunately it  conflates ownership of economic  rights with authorship – two different legal concepts (the French would go mad, mon dieu, le droit d’auteur!) .

 Similarly, it mixes   authors with distribution channels. ‘Market A’  comprises Getty Images, Universal Music and Apple iTunes, and JK Rowling.  

 What the study   is trying to do is to create definable markets for copyright, in order to investigate  the transaction/volume relationships.  But in failing to understand the true nature of  copyright  it just falls over.

It  muddles   collecting societies  with rights-managers, and misses the more subtle complexities of copyright:

Rights owners […]in the book publishing industry [are] the  author, the illustrator or in the case of non-fiction often the publisher.

Sure, some non-fiction books are commissioned by the publisher, who would retain (own) all rights to the content -  Dorling Kindersley is a good example of this. Others are written by the author and published by a third-party in the usual way - if publishing  in the UK, the author will generally retain  the overall copyright, but  will transfer certain rights to the publisher. These rights may include electronic rights as well as print, and to all intents and purposes the publisher becomes the rights-holder.

 The study appears to mix media types with formats, as in the following list.  I am sure there are plenty of people in the music industry who can put them  right on it.

 Copyright licensing involves nine major media types:

1. Music and audio

2. Performances

3. Text

4. Artworks

5. Still pictures

6. Moving pictures

7. Computer games

8. Mixed media (content that contains moving pictures, text and still pictures, e.g. a  newspaper website)

9. Cross-media (the same digital content being licensed on different platforms, for  example cable television and Smartphones)

 Finally, there is the rather, in my opinion, rather  simplistic hypothesis:   “Copyright licensing, involving rights owners, rights managers, rights users and end    users across the different media types, in the three defined copyright markets, is not fit  for purpose for the digital age.”

 This is not the first time that someone has tried to develop a rights-exchange. It is a complex process which requires an in-depth understanding of copyright  and the industries who use it. Defining why copyright  is unfit, and redefining it,  will require much more work than  a management consultancy box-drawing exercise.

 Digital Copyright Exchange Feasibility Study – call for evidence issued on 4 January.  Deadline 10 February.

Chapter 6 of my book The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet politics and the Telecoms Package addresses some of the issues in terms of EU copyright policy, the collecting societies and lobbying. It is based on research which  I carried out before I decided to concentrate on enforcement, and which I have never published.

 You are free to re-publish this article under a non-commercial Creative Commons licence, but you must attibute the author and put a link back to Academics – please cite this article as Monica Horten, UK feasibility study to put  digital copyright through the hoops,, 16 December 2011 . Commercial users – please contact the author.







The Copyright Enforcement Enigma tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package and how the copyright industries tried to hijack it.

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Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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