U.K. Announces First Phase Launch of the Copyright Hub Following Years of Investigation

An idea initially envisioned as the "Digital Copyright Exchange" in U.K. professor Ian Hargreaves' 2011 report on copyright reform, before becoming the Copyright Hub in a report released last year, is now becoming a very real (digital) thing. The Copyright Hub is one of the first, and most high-profile, steps the U.K. has taken towards modernizing and streamlining its countries' management of copyright in the digital age, following the past two years' investigations and reports. Said Richard Hooper, architect of the Hub, in a statement: "The Copyright Hub until now has been just an idea. Today it begins to become an exciting reality.”

Announced today was the launch, due this summer, of the first phase of the Copyright Hub, called "website launch & education" in the Hooper report from July, 2012. "The initial website launch will provide an education portal for digital copyrights, and signposting to the appropriate rights licensing websites," the report explains. Twelve organizations are providing services to the Hub in phase one: the BBC, the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA), Copyright Clearance Centre (CCC), Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA), Federation of Commercial Audio-visual Libraries (FOCAL), Getty Images, the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), Pearson, the Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS), Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and PRS for Music.

“We are delighted to be involved in the Copyright Hub," said PPL chief executive Peter Leathem in a statement. "PPL’s collective licensing of recorded music and videos is itself an example of existing work by rights holders to aggregate copyright on behalf of 60,000 record companies and performers, manage data and simplify licensing. The Copyright Hub will build on such structures and databases across the creative sector, becoming a valuable tool to further assist copyright users in obtaining licences and finding out more about copyright and licensing. This will hopefully contribute to the further growth of a creative sector that is already culturally and economically crucial for the UK.”

Following phase one -- the launch of the website -- multimedia content search will be added, followed by registration for content creators and, in the fourth and final phase, license procurement via the Hub. The Copyright Licensing Steering Group, charged with managing and administrating the U.K.'s copyright initiatives, says its work is solely focused on "simplifying the process of obtaining licenses for copyrighted material." In its final form, the hub aims to serve five main purposes, according to Hooper's 2012 report:

-- Act as a signposting and navigation mechanism to the complex world of copyright
-- Be the place to go for copyright education
-- Be the place where any copyright owner can choose to register works, the associated rights to those works, permitted uses and licences granted
-- Be the place for potential licensees to go for easy to use, transparent, low transaction cost copyright licensing via for example digital copyright exchanges -- DCEs -- acting in effect as a marketplace for rights
-- Be one of the authoritative places where prospective users of orphan works can go to demonstrate they have done proper, reasonable and due diligent searches for the owners of those works before they digitise them

When Richard Hooper's follow-up report was issued, U.K. business secretary Vince Cable said of the Hub that "the idea of a 'copyright hub' is an ambitious undertaking and one that could clearly yield great benefits for the UK's creative industries and consumers. It is potentially a ground-breaking step forward that will help make copyright licensing fit for 21st century."