Digital Opportunity - a review of Intellectual Property and Growth, the 132 page report published on May 18, 2011, is the result of an intensive 6 month independent review lead by Ian Hargreaves, commissioned by PM David Cameron in November 2010.
The basis for the review was a ministerial concern that in a digital age the intellectual property framework was not keeping pace with new innovation and growth models principally reflected by open innovation and open-source.
With just 6 months from commission to recommendations the Hargreaves team took on what can be considered one of the most complex and highly contentious subjects and steered through a multitude of both emotional and at times the vested interests of a myriad of players.
The report even at 132 pages is actually a concise synthesis of the views and special interests of industry at large, the platform providers; content providers; creative industries; publishers; the legal sector and their respective representative bodies.
There are 10 key recommendations. Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, the one of most interest to Creative Barcode is the proposal to establish a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) to facilitate copyright licensing in a fast and cost efficient manner.
Extract P7. "In copyright, the interests of the UK's creative industries are of great national importance. Digital creative industries exports rank third, behind only advanced engineering and financial and professional services. In order to grow these creative businesses further globally, they need efficient, open and effective digital markets at home, where rights can be speedily licensed and effectively protected."
A DCE (or more than one) will need to address a significant range of needs and interests. Creative Barcodes response is therefore only focused on the key issues that affect creative industries; as follows:
An estimated 80% of all innovation is not subject to patent.
UK Creative industry sectors, particularly design, comprise nearly 30,000 micro & SME firms across the disciplines and nearly 300,000 freelance operatives. In the majority, the consultancy style firms within this sector seek not to launch manufacturing companies but to co-create and license concepts to industry partners. So in affect they stimulate manufacturing industries. The designer-makers represented in these figures seek to license for manufacture; or sub-contract manufacturing on securing of advanced retail orders.
The design sector alone contributes an estimated £1 billion per annum to exports. Those who license to manufacture are likely to contribute significantly more if one takes into account the direct correlation between investment in design and manufacturers increased export sales.
A formal DCE might provide a basis for increasing such activity and monitoring UK 'creative industry invisibles' - something that has been very difficult to do to date.
Digital Rights Management could equally be significantly improved through the existence of a national DCE and potentially orphaned works considerably reduced in the future.
A very important business and consumer communication element ought to be factored into the core process behind establishing a Digital Copyright Exchange. That is, ask permission to use a piece of work, do not use, re-use or re-mix, if it is not owned by you.
Business and consumer usage of creative works found on the internet whether on businesses' own marketing web sites or within other portals has become confused between free to access and free to use. In that regard 'public domain' has become a very grey area.
Creative Barcode was introduced (launched in September 2010) to seek to address two key issues within the design and broader creative industries.
In context of the consultancy sector, it addresses safe-disclosure of concepts pre-contract during the course of new business activity with industry, in particular during pitches and open innovation activity. Non-disclosure agreements are rare in these activities. An alternative mechanism, digital barcodes, that acknowledge original source, ownership and permission based use under-pinned by a Trust Charter, was our solution.
And at this stage, in a secondary but growing role, it seeks to address permission based usage and digital rights management. Unique digital barcodes applied to concepts, images, photography, video and film and so forth denote "ask permission." Barcodes travel with the works and are embedded with owners contact details.
There are core elements of the Creative Barcode solution that could support some elements of a Digital Copyright Exchange but on a much bigger platform. A Digital Copyright Exchange to facilitate licensing is a great idea if implemented well and so long as it tries not to boil the ocean.
In that regard our own 10 recommendations back to the review team and to government would be:
1. Break down the DRE into bite sized chunks or even 'clones' fit for purpose: Creative Industries licensing; non-creative industries IP licensing; Patents; License free.
Perhaps a hub and spokes model that reflects the specific nature and needs of the IP & business sectors
2. Look at annual renewable registration structures and models that work well - such as
Domain name registration and data protection
3. Consider a micro payment system in order that a DRE is critically attractive, accessible and affordable to those in creative industries (principally individuals and micro companies) whose daily life and income is based on pre-commercialised concept generation
4. Avoid complexity and paperwork
5. Engage a service design team in the process to ensure the DRE is intuitive to the user and presents no barriers to swift identification of rights holders and requests for use
6. Back-up with a business and consumer education campaign - 'if it is not yours - ask permission to use'
7. Encourage platform owners, search engines, ISP's, publishers and idea exchange portals to communicate permission based usage, unless stated otherwise and (contentiously) to amend their terms and conditions where uploading materials and use of platforms grants unpaid sub-licenses to platform owners.
8. Introduce a physical registration certificate and visual icon representing 'permission or license to use required' - or of course, perhaps talk to Creative Barcode, to provide its digital barcode technology to the DRE for that purpose
9. Allow only knowledge-based and articulated concepts to be registered plus commercialised & complete creative works (i.e. disallow notional and unarticulated ideas of the everyman)
10. Make it compulsory to register to search and track views and requests to use
A Digital Copyright Exchange implemented in a robust whilst non-complex manner would serve the creative industries and innovation focused businesses very well.
Those who feel that an open-source or "freeconomy" based on free access to use, replicate, re-mix or build on others knowledge and work is the only route to innovation growth are perhaps not considering the rights of the creative industries to earn a living from their original works.
IP, particularly pre-commercialised, does not need to be restrictive to be effective. A fair model that recognises respects and remunerates the professional idea generators, creators and solution-led creative consultancies should surely open up innovation not restrict it.