IP Review To Recommend Digital Rights Clearinghouse


The Hargreaves report into IP reform looks set to propose a rights exchange to boost the UK’s digital economy

The Hargreaves report on the UK’s intellectual property system will recommend sweeping inovations such as the establishment of a digital rights clearing house and changes to laws on ripping CDs, according to reports.

The report, expected to be released later this week, was commissioned last autumn by Prime Minster David Cameron. It arrives as the coalition focusses on new areas of potential economic growth, such as life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the creative industries.

Digital rights exchange

One of the report’s principal recommendations will be the establishment of a UK-based digital rights exchange that could “make the UK the best place in the world to do business in digital content”, according to reports in the Financial Times and The Guardian.

The exchange would be a centralised system designed to help businesses wanting to use original content such as music or film to identify copyright owners and pay the appropriate licensing fees.

The report is led by Prof Ian Hargreaves, chair of digital economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism. In the study he will say such a rights exchange could take on an importance comparable to London’s significance as a centre for financial services, according to reports.

“The prize is to build on the UK’s current competitive advantage in creative content to become a leader in licensing services for global content markets; in short to make the UK the best place in the world to do business in digital content,” the FT quoted Hargreaves as saying in the report. “It is not fanciful to suggest such a development would be of comparable importance over time to the UK’s position as the leading service support centre in the European timezone in financial services.”

However, such an exchange has been suggested in the past – for instance in the lead-up to Lord Carter’s Digital Britain consultation – but has been rejected as unrealistic.

Industry experts have said an exchange would be unlikely to succeed without the backing of US-based IT and content companies, and that it would be difficult to get these companies to work together on such a project.

‘Digital tsar’

In the report Hargreaves reportedly recommends that industry should be left to set up the rights exchange, with the government appointing a digital tsar to oversee its design and implementation.

Other recommendations will include a modification of copyright law to allow the ripping of CDs for the purpose of putting music onto digital players – something that is technically illegal under current British law.

The Hargreaves review was announced as the Prime Minister set out plans for an “east London Tech City” stretching from Shoreditch to Stratford.

He outlined a positive role for IT companies in the creation of the East End Tech City, a potential rival to Silicon Valley. Intel, Google and Facebook have all committed to opening research labs or innovation centres in the area and consulting firm McKinsey has also expressed an interest. Among other names mentioned at the time were BT and Cisco, and last year Twitter considered coming to London.

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