Intellectual property for innovation and growth

Is there an optimum design for an Intellectual Property framework? An independent review in the UK seeks to find the answer.

In November 2011, the UK government announced an independent review into how a re-designed Intellectual Property (IP) framework could support growth and innovation.   

The review will explore access to information, the costs of permissions and enforcement and the benefits of ‘fair use'.

The ‘creative industries' are a significant part of the UK economy and the review seeks to identify how an effectively designed IP Framework can help support economic growth, research, education and commercial and social innovation.

The independent review is chaired by Professor Ian Hargreaves (Professor of Digital Economy, Cardiff Business School) who was a member of an expert panel who explored the complex issues surrounding ‘IP for economic growth' at the RSA, in London, on 2nd March 2011.

Other speakers were: Dame Lynne Brindley, The British Library; John Howkins, BOP Consulting; Sarah Hunter, Google; Simon Juden, Pearson; and Alison Wenham, Association of Independent Music.  The session was chaired by Matthew Taylor, The Chief Executive of the RSA.

A confused picture

Most speakers felt that the current system is clumsy and confused and could well be stifling innovation in two ways

  • Entrepreneurs being concerned that they will not retrench investment
  • Innovative re-use of content not taking place for fear of falling foul of the law

For Simon Juden, IP is what incentivises much of the creative sector, and yet rights clearance is messy.  Sarah Hunter of Google stated that the picture in the UK is unclear and needs fixing.  John Howkins said that the UK, once a leader in copyright legislation, had lost its way rather and should look to re-establish itself on the international stage.  This was an opinion echoed by Lynne Brindley who spoke about more ‘enlightened', platform neutral guidelines in existence, or being developed, in other countries including France, German and Scandinavia.  

Recommendations for the Review

The speakers raised a range of issues they hope the Review will address, including:

  • Data mining - it's speeding up research but is a fault line in current copyright/contract law
  • Fit for purpose digital preservation programmes, that would include audio/visual resources
  • Mass clearance of rights for cultural projects
  • Solving the problem of identifying the rights holders of ‘orphan works'
  • A version of fair trade that encourages the creative, ‘transformative' use/re-use of content
  • Blocking illegal music sites and enabling fair payment to ‘creatives'

The true value of creative industry

Some institutions are lagging behind when it comes to the creative industries.  When Alison Wenham sought to have her music catalogue valued, a UK firm gave it a zero value!   We need proper measures of growth and guidance on how to value intellectual property.

The way forward - a balance in all things

The music industry is creating global repertoire databases.  Would a ‘single registry', cutting across all content types and international borders, be possible, wondered Simon Juden, or could effective metadata help facilitate creative content use, within the law?  Historically, legislation and guidelines in the UK have been platform specific, but new guidelines should seek to be technology neutral.

According to Ian Hargreaves an effective IP framework should enable a competitive and vibrant environment while protecting the rights of the creator.  It should reward innovation while enabling knowledge sharing.   You can keep an eye on the project's progress via its blog to see whether is looks like achieving this.

Image courtesy of MikeBlogs via Flickr.