Simpsons Solicitors

UK Government to bring forward proposals for extended collective licensing by November 2011

August 26th 2011

The UK Government’s Hargreaves Report calls for an efficient system to allow mass digitisation of collections of copyright works: “Digital technology permits mass digitisation so that whole collections – such as national libraries, the BBC, archive and private collections – may be made available online. But we are effectively prevented from taking this opportunity because of the transaction costs of assembling all the necessary permissions. The proposed Digital Copyright Exchange would alleviate this problem, but there would still be issues with owners of a small number of works in a collection who had not, possibly by oversight or because they are unknown, put those works into the system.”

The remedy supported by Hargreaves is a system of extended collective licensing (ECL) based on the Nordic model, where a collecting society with a critical mass of members in a particular sector (e.g. representing a majority of literary authors in a particular territory) is granted the right to licence the works of non-members in that sector, unless they specifically opt out of the ECL scheme. Hargreaves qualifies his proposal by saying that it should not be imposed on a sector as a compulsory measure “where there is not call for it”, and that individual creators should always retain the ability to opt out of ECL arrangements.”

In effect, this employs the same modus operandi as the Google Books Settlement (which was recently rejected in the courts in the US), in that it requires copyright owners to ‘opt out’ rather than ‘opt in’ to the licensing scheme.

The UK Government has said it intends to “bring forward proposals for extended collective licensing to benefit sectors that choose to adopt it” and, in doing so, will look to “maximise the benefits it could bring to smaller creative firms and individual creators in particular.”

Proposals on both orphan works and ECL are due from the Government by November 2011. The real test will be in the detail of the proposals, which must answer some very fundamental – and very hotly contested – questions on how to balance the rights of copyright owners and copyright users.

To read more about this story go to: http://www.copyright.org.au/news-and-policy/details/id/1994/

For inquiries relating to publishing and copyright law please contact Adam Simpson.