6 July 2012
The UK Intellectual Property Office continues to make good head way to introduce less complex and lower cost IP solutions fit for a digital age.
London, June 29th 2012, saw over 100 representatives of creative industry trade associations, intermediaries, IP innovators and members of the legal profession gather for the final stages of the Richard Hooper assessment of potential copyright licensing reforms.
Hosted by Richard Hooper and Dr. Ros Lynch the event included dividing the representatives into 10 groups for a one hour intensive brainstorm on what a future Digital Copyright Exchange hub might look like.
The resulting 10 presentations confirmed that the representatives, irrespective of their specific creative sector communities, were in broad agreement of the issues to be addressed. Above all it was evident that solutions could only be achieved if collaboration between representatives took place and solutions focused on rationalisation and removal of the complexity for the benefit of rights holders (Creators) and rights users (consumers, education, cultural organisations and businesses).
Identification of rights holders
A clear need for industry sector ‘identifiers’ or one unified identifier emerged as a critical requirement to ensure that creative ownership and IP rights held could easily be found.
Identifiers could significantly reduce inadvertent breach of IP rights by rights users and were considered essential to turn the tide against the digital age increasing inadvertent copyright breach.
Whilst not highly visible or particularly well known to the consumer, identifiers exist in the publishing industry in the form of ISBN numbers but no such identifier exists as yet in the Photographic sector. New kid on the block Creative Barcode is an identifier, fit for the digital age, developed originally for the design, digital, written word, visual and creative & innovation communities.
Its use of QR code technology embeds digital barcodes into Creative works and provides a visible link between the work, the Creators contact details and their IP status contained within the Meta Data. And whilst further developments are required, its introduction of micro-barcodes will provide further easy and cost effective solution to writers, photographers, illustrators, and film, digital content and video makers.
Smart phones with in-built QR code readers provide viewers with an easy means to obtain the contact details and the IP status of any item of creative work. The barcodes are visible and can be scanned whether they appear on a printed item, an exhibition panel, a document, in an image – on or offline. It is an ideal technology for both the rights holders and rights users. It enables the rights holder to embed their Meta data and URL links into the barcode and apply the barcode to any item. The rights user can scan the barcode or use the link to obtain the owners contact details; arrive at their payment system and purchase an item using a mobile or laptop.
QR codes could contain up to 7089 characters of data without the need to be online or upload material to servers. Further, using the Creative Barcode App, rights holders are able to update their Meta Data contained in their unique barcodes. Therefore, if the IP owner changes after the sale of a creative work, a simple edit to the Meta Data will update the ownership details within the QR code regardless of whether it appears in, for example, one image or several 1000 of the same image spread across offline print materials or online portals.
Arguably, the Creative Barcode solution, with further development, could act as the ‘Switzerland’ solution across most of the creative industries. It could become the industry standard IP identifier and could be compatible to and work in unison with all existing sector specific identifiers without causing disruption to their existing business models. In a simple, non-complex and cost efficient manner it provides the means for all Creators and or their representative licensing agents and collection societies to be identified and contactable.
And thus provides consumer, education and business rights users with direct line access to ask permission to use or license a piece of copyright works.
QR codes can allow for several rights owners details to be incorporated and thus enable, for example, in film and video for the rights owners of the music, photography & graphics to each be identifiable and contacted directly.
Creative Barcode was originally developed to respond to a need to authenticate & protect pre-commercialised original works and identify the owners of innovation & creative concepts submitted into open innovation initiatives, competitions, business pitches and other activities requiring safe-disclosure under-pinned by a simple, trust based ethical agreement between Creators and third parties. This need emerged due to pre-commercialised ideas & concepts having no protection mechanism available within the traditional IP system.
More recently it has emerged as an equally credible means to authenticate & protect completed creative works displayed on and offline.
The Creative Barcode innovation approach was to pare everything down to the human principles of trust, ethics, etiquette, integrity, authenticity and fair trading and to remove the negative cost and complexity of traditional IP mechanisms.
The decision to use QR code technology was based not only on its fitness for purpose and its origins to identify & ‘track’ the movement of documents and physical product components but also because consumers are aware of 1D barcodes that appear on retail products which must be scanned and paid for before they can enjoy them. Failure to do so is called shop-lifting. Thereby if a creative works carries a barcode it communicates that it needs to be scanned and paid for.
In the context of Intellectual Property the Creator would be the independent retailer and the collection agencies, photo libraries, publishers and so forth would be the department stores. The consumer, education and business rights users would be the online shopper.
Legislative change to enforce responsibilities of rights holders and rights users
Two very critical motions were put forward for discussion by the Hooper team as a consideration to support the effectiveness of identifiers
The first motion is a critical need for Creators of works to take responsibility for visibly authenticating and identifying their work and its IP status whether free to use or available under license directly or via another representative party.
In order for Creators to do so, any identification system must be quick & easy to use, easy to update, non-complex and completely affordable to the individual up to the largest business or University.
It cannot be ignored that Creators are by and large individuals and micro-companies. They are not ‘inventors of a single product or service’ but serial Creators who each and every day produce a quantity of new works. Therefore formal registration of copyright and designs is not a viable proposition for the majority. And conceptual works, when the idea is at its most vulnerable, cannot be protected under traditional IP mechanisms.
For Creators to fully accept their responsibility, it may require new legislation that states that those who choose to avoid identifiers and yet promote their works across the internet may face less success in enforcing their infringed rights
The second motion was to introduce legislative change that makes it illegal to remove an identifier from a Creators work and use the work without permission or payment. I am assuming this is specific to the UK as it is already a World Intellectual Property Organisation legislative obligation in force across many states including the USA.
If the UK plans to catch-up, such legislation would significantly reduce misappropriation of others creative work and send a clear signal to rights users to check the IP status and seek permission to use and or license the work rather than remove the identifier and steal. Every person already knows that stealing is wrong.
It has to be said, that often and ashamedly it can be other Creators who remove identifiers from images found on the web. They will need to change their behaviour and rapidly.
Both of these motions would make absolute sense
Creators must be part of the solution and to be so they need to accept their responsibility for identifying their work and IP status. If they do not then no amount of effort on their behalf undertaken by their representative bodies, licensing agents, collection societies, government or any innovation-led firm in the IP sector, will have any major impact on resolving the problems.
And those that wish to use others works also need to act in an ethical, honest and fair manner. The identifier must enable the potential user to contact the party from whom permission to use is required and where relevant, quickly and easily make a payment. Or choose not to pay and therefore not to use the work.
Additionally, if or when these motions come into force it will also provide an easier solution to internet portal owners and search engines who have recently found themselves in the firing line for aiding and abetting copyright infringement. Most portal owners do not communicate information regards intellectual property rights or they make their site users solely responsible for copyright breach of materials uploaded to their sites.
Identifiers will also be essential to reduce orphan works arising in the future
Personally I would also be in favour of a dedicated Orphan works portal to enable museums and archivists to digitise collections and upload to a searchable portal where rights owners have 12 months to authenticate the works as theirs and give permission to distribute for free or to license, directly or through the organisation that digitised the work. Those who choose to license directly could purchase the digital file, at a fair price, to cover the digitisation cost and then be free to use the file.
After 12 months, a fixed, low cost license fee could be charged for unclaimed works which could be held for a further 12 months and paid over to the authenticated owner should they come forward.
Beyond 24 months unclaimed works could become public domain whilst retaining a right of reversal and a revert to the licensing option should the Creator appear at any time later than 24 months, but without any claim arising for any prior distribution or license fees. Again a QR code field labelled as Orphan works would support a reversal to the later identified owner as the field can easily and swiftly be edited.
As fields within QR codes can allow for component IP owners to be identified individually, it enables mixed ownership in Orphan works, some identified and others unidentified to be accommodated as and when each owner comes forward.
Digital Copyright Exchange hub and spokes model
It has been confirmed that neither Government nor its agency the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will set-up the hub, nor own or manage it.
That task is one, they say, best left to industry although facilitating necessary collaboration between willing industries partners with a level of public funds has not been ruled out.
It is understood that the intention of the hub is to act as a ‘registry’ of works.
Creative Barcode has expressed its interest in a place on the core team not least of all due to its advanced plans to develop a bespoke or licensed & tailored registry to marry with its successful rights protection system. Slight concerns were expressed by some regards where they might fit within a central DCE if they have advanced digital registries of their own to consider or upcoming registries in an advanced stage of development.
At this juncture it is unclear as to how works in an ‘industry-led’ registry are to be protected in context of an ‘identifier’ or other IP mechanisms, what the cost to Creators might be or how rights holders’ payments are to be collected.
To enable a Digital Copyright Exchange hub to be compatible with, linked, sector specific DCE spokes, it is likely that an Application Programming Interface (API) would be a feature. And or search algorithms written to enable all parties database content to be searched to identify the owners / agent of the works the rights user wishes to license.
As such a DCE hub and spokes model would likely benefit if a common identifier were utilised by parties registering works.
The method of payment will be most important to the DCE user seeking to license rights. If it’s complex or appears to involve a myriad of systems, it may have a negative impact on sales.
The ‘industry’ team might consider a system that enables a licensing collection body, a photo-library, a museum, a publisher or an individual Creator to enter their own payment urls directly into the registration process. Such a system would provide inclusivity and absolute freedom of choice. Creators could take payments directly into their own online payment system or through their selected intermediary of choice.
As such collection of payments by intermediaries would not be disrupted. And such an inclusion would also negate the need for one party to act as a payment collection body and be required to administer payments to Creators and their agents.
The rights user would benefit from a perceived one stop shop to identify and buy works under license online, directly from the rights owner or through the intermediary.
However, regular users or users making more than one purchase in one visit may be inconvenienced if an absence of a central shopping cart was not enabled but instead several small payments need to be made individually through different Creators or their intermediaries’ payment systems.
It is clear that a whole range of issues need consideration and resolution and more-over that the experience of the site users seeking to license materials must remain upper most of mind.
Collaboration is paramount
There appeared to be a healthy appetite for collaboration between most of the representative parties.
Indeed, it is likely to have been recognised that without collaboration, no single party, other than a major industry player, for example, Getty Images, would have deep enough pockets or the critical mass to achieve business model reforms or DCE solutions on their own.
Business model reform and the idea of change may prove to be uncomfortable for some but for others it is likely to represent an opportunity to innovate, stream line and remove complexities from existing systems
There is strength in numbers and above all, what all organisations need to realise is that in reality remaining in competition is pointless. It is the Creator and the User who determines what they wish to buy into – and all they want is the easiest, fastest & non-complex means of achieving their goal.
Funding / oiling the wheels of collaboration
To enable industry collaboration and revise of business models between key organisations and more over to create a hub and ensure the spokes are compatible to it, will likely involve the IPO in earmarking a development fund.
If a hub is no more than an information and sign-posting portal it may not be any more useful than many that exist.
But if it is to become a registry of works for license the IPO equally need to be mindful of those amongst the industry players who have and are developing registries and likewise identifiers.
Equally, how others investments and models become compatible rather than competitive with any central registry, particularly one with public sector funds provided, will need to be handled carefully and fairly.
After all, so many participated in the reviews and shared knowledge, business models, advice and valuable time.
One thing’s for sure, there are interesting times ahead
The Hooper Phase 2 report and recommendations are due to be published shortly.
Julian Wilkins Creative Industries Lawyer and Editor of Blue Pencil magazine – the UK’s first known IP publication dedicated to Creative Industries - joins the board of Creative Barcode to collaborate & develop additional non-complex IP solutions fit for a digital age. http://www.creativebarcode.com/newsitem?item=62
About Creative Barcode
Launched in September 2010 Creative Barcode fulfills an unmet need for the protection and authentication of innovation concepts pre-commercialization. It is believed to be the first innovation in the IP sector for more than 3 decades that is fit for the digital age. Usage of Creative Barcode opens-up innovation not restricts it. It reduces the vulnerability of disclosure pre-commercialization and provides an authentication to concepts and a measureable value to innovation journeys.
And it does so in a legally robust yet non-complex way at a price point affordable to every individual Creator up to the largest company or University worldwide
With users in over 19 Countries across 5 continents the Creative Barcode system has never been breached
More recently Creative Barcode introduced a micro-barcode system to enable authentication and IP ownership for completed works displayed on and offline for marketing, PR and promotion purposes. Further development of micro-barcode is due to take place and made available as an API to online portals, Digital Copyright Exchanges and license fee collection agencies.
About Blue Pencil
Blue Pencil Media Ltd is a publishing, media finance, and production Company, and was established in 2011 by two brothers, Julian and Stuart Wilkins whose respective careers in media and IP law, and international banking as well as a long family association within the media industry have helped shape the company, and its values.
About Innovation Bank
Launched June 2012 Innovation Bank is a safe-trading portal for all type and size of innovation-led firm. It encourages collaborative partnerships and the licensing, buying and selling of innovation concepts and IP. Account holders can also send innovation requests to each other singularly or to specific groups. All trading takes place within a secure, non-public area, where account holders are signed to the Creative Barcode Trust Charter. A front-end Innovation directory and news room is open to public view and is used by account holders as a PR and marketing facility.