This is reposted from the Creative Industries KTN blog, with permission.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get along to a very special day-long event co-hosted by the CI KTN and the UK Science and Innovation Network, entitled Future Copyright: Access All Areas? I essence, the aim of the day was to bring a range of people from across Europe to respond to Professor Ian Hargreaves' Digital Opportunity report and to Richard Hooper's plans for the Copyright Hub. I say "range of people" and it really was: developers, content industry professionals, entrepreneurs, creative practitioners and policy makers. Ditto when I say "from across Europe"; there were attendees from, if memory serves, Germany, Finland, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Poland.

The "response" sessions took the form of two workshops in the afternoon. The sessions were lively and at times rambunctious. I confess that, not untypically I got rather involved and vocal so am not really in a position to report back on those – except to say that my, does this whole area still arouse passions like no other!

But in the morning session, a set of eminent speakers gave excellent presentations to frame the day and I thought it might be useful here to go through the headlines of what they covered.

Professor Hargreaves was the first up to present, after a brief introduction from Laura Nuccilli of the Science and Innovation Network. He discussed his report in brief and updated us on its progress; although it was finally delivered in the spring of 2011, "it's outcome is still unknown", that is, the degree to which its recommendations will make it on to the statute books is a moot point, with a great deal of "intense lobbying" attending it. He pointed out that if copyright can't be reformed by a coalition government with a decent majority and a fixed 5 year term in office then "it may not be reformable at all". And if reform didn't happen, the situation will simply "burst". He was also quite scathing about European policy makers' attitude to new communications technologies, saying that it often felt as if Europe were "pouring treacle into the internet".

Professor Martin Kretschmer was up next. Describing himself as a "social scientist of law", Kretschmer heads up the Centre for Copyright and New Business Models (or CREATe) at the University of Glasgow and gave a presentation entitled The digital turn: a natural experiment. From his talk I took out three points: that like it or not, a lot of content industries would happen without IP laws (he cited news and advertising) while ironically an area like TV formats, which is all about IP, exist outside any copyright framework at all; that content industries will inevitably move from a position of exclusivity to one of being a service provider; and that for all the chatter in this area, there was still a need for a lot more robust research. Which is where CREATe comes in I guess.

Sarah Jacquier is the Legal Director of Hadopi, the French government legal initiative to curb file-sharing. Now Hadopi, a three-strikes-and-you-(potentially)-lose your-internet-connection law has always been controversial and is apparently now under fire from the Hollonde government, but I thought Jacquier explained the thinking behind Hadopi and how it had worked out in reality extremely well. Although 1.3 million letters have been sent out so far to "first offenders", the "graduated response" drops off radically from there; very few get as far as the third strike, only 14 cases have been brought and one sanction been given. And this last was a fine of 150euros, not, in fact, a suspension of internet access. Now this has been viewed by some as a lamentable failure, but Jacquier had a rather different take on this: that the process was one of education and that as a result, file sharing had declined significantly in France compared with other European countries with no equivalent law. (By coincidence, on the BBC World Service only this morning, the law was being discussed by an American academic who pointed to Hadopi's success in comparison with the more punitive steps being taken in the US.)

Richard Hooper then went on to introduce his thinking behind the Copyright Hub – the actual incarnation of the "copyright exchange" proposed in the Hargreaves report; the Hub's job was in many ways, he said, to "test Hargreaves' hypothoses". He started off with something, however, that was music to my ears: that before anything could really happen in this area there were some "big boring data issues" to be resolved. Bingo. He cited the lack of international data and metadata standards in the music industry but went on to point out the the audiovisual industries didn't even have simple work identifiers. He also discussed the fact that "repertoire imbalance" was a big incentive to illegal downloaders. For instance, while Lovefilm has over 70,000 titles to rent on DVD, it still only has 8,000 to stream. What's a film buff to do? The Copyright Hub would be, he said, three things: voluntary/opt in; industry-led; and pro-competitive. And he went on to point out that the themes he would be concentrating on would be:  navigation and signposting; copyright education (which I tackled him on in the discussion later, but that's for another time); the assertion of rights through a rights registry; automated licensing mechanisms; and orphan works. All in all, I found his proposals practical, grounded, non-doctrinaire and realistic.

Birgitte Andersen, director of the Big Innovation Centre at Lancaster, couldn't have been more different. Calling for an "ambitious, bold and enterprising" copyright system, she gave an impassioned speech in which she decried the prosecution of file-sharers, despaired of reactionary content owners, spelled out how the overall pie of the creative industries could be grown if only we had a more fluid approach to intellectual property and that new, innovative technology startups were being strangled at birth through the lack of access to content. Now many of her points I would have made at some point, and with much of what she said I found myself nodding. But I'm not sure I buy the whole picture any more, and at times it did seem to me she was suggesting that new business had a natural right to build on the work, success and property of others. Nonetheless, her passion was palpable and brought some fire to the morning; inevitably she clashed with Sarah Jacquier, albeit in a civilised way!

Finally, before we got down to the workshops, our old friend Jeremy Silver, Lead Specialist for the Creative Industries at the TSB, gave us an introduction to the Catapult Centres, and in partiuclar to the Connected Digital Economy Catapult or CDEC; he pointed out that of course, IP would be one of the key areas of research for the centre.

So, a highly enjoyable day. Congratulations to Martin Brasssel of IP specialists Inngot for pulling together such a stimulating day and for hosting it all rather splendidly.


Footnote:  A couple of times in the discussion later I cited a book which I still believe to be mandatory reading if you're going to formulate any ideas around intellectual property, Lewis Hyde's masterful, if overlooked, Common as Air.