The Copyright Hub, a web portal and collaborative forum for creative sectors in managing issues regarding copyright, today launched as a pilot to help bring copyright licensing up to speed with the digital age.
Key among the services of the industry-led, non-profit organisation is helping rights users, such as publishers or journalists, to get licences for copyrighted works by providing information and linking to relevant organisations.
"The three driving features of the Hub," said Richard Hooper, chair of the Copyright Hub Launch Group, "are, firstly, how do you find your way through the complexity, secondly, how do you get permission to use stuff which is licensed and then, thirdly, how do creative people protect their work."
Raising awareness of copyright law around the internet was a key component put forward by the 2012 report Copyright Works, authored by Hooper and Dr Ros Lynch in response to concerns raised by the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, stating that "copyright infringing websites are easier to use by consumers than legal websites".
Some changes to copyright law, intended to make the process more efficient for the digital age, had been strongly opposed by members of the creative industries which, at the time, praised the Copyright Hub as a potential solution.
"There is evidence that investment in copyright licensing processes and organisations, making them more fit for purpose, can obviate the need for some changes to the copyright law," said Hooper.
In addition to providing a wide range of information to individuals and businesses who use copyright, the Hub connects digital copyright exchanges, licensing organisations and content creators to facilitate the process of licensing works between all.
"The first customer of the Hub is the rights user," said Hooper. "Hence the basic drive: find out about [a piece of work], find out who owns what rights to it and, where possible, license through the hub in a simple way."
As such, the "get permission" section of the site is broken down into music, images, text, video and multimedia, with further information and links to relevant organisations that the Hub is connected to. Prospective rights users are pointed towards organisations to help them contact rights owners or, if the rights owner is not known, offered search tools such as PicScout to search for the image around the internet.
"Then the second customer is the creator," he continued, "people who are generating their own copyrighted work, and that gives you information on where you can go to register the work, if you wish to."
For content creators, like photographers, writers and videographers, the site explains what rights a content creator can hold, how to mark works as copyright protected and how to join a licensing organisation.
"It's had a lot of support but the main thing to stress is we're not trying to do everything at once," said Hooper.
While the website has been launched as a 'consultation pilot', individuals and organisations behind the Hub are working to expand its connectivity so that it may provide a broad network of contacts for any copyright queries.
In the current "first phase", said Hooper, the Hub links to 12 organisations and collecting agencies around the UK and abroad but further links will be established in the future.
More advanced search techniques, which could search all of the affiliated organisations for the copyright status of a piece of work, and different types of licenses are also being explored for the future, said Hooper.
"We've got a group working on something called a multi-repertoire licence," he said. "It's a multimedia licence, so if somebody wants something from different sources and different types of content, it makes it much easier to get hold of."
These ideas will be rolled out in future phases of the project, with the second phase planned for October.
"We want it to be a pilot," he said. "We don't want to try to run before we walk, we want to try to take it by stages. It's not a massive IT project that we then find out nobody wants. As we get feedback we'll make various changes to the site and we'll start adding other organisations who want to join."
The Copyright Hub is partially funded by the Intellectual Property Office and match-funded by organisations in the creative industries.
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