Finally - a solution to let people make money online WITHOUT ads?
Possible belated outbreak of common sense about to happen
The UK's copyright industries have agreed to fund new content trading exchanges, which will make it easier to use images and other creative works at a lower cost. That's according to Richard Hooper, the ex-Ofcom bigwig tasked by the government to oversee the creation of these copyright hubs.
Arguably, this is something businesses should have agreed to years ago - but better late than later.
The idea of "digital copyright exchanges" was mooted in the Google, sorry, Hargreaves Review of intellectual property last year; Hooper and senior civil servant Ros Lynch were asked to investigate. The pair appear to have overcome initial suspicion from the industries - and even Google now sees merit in the idea, Hooper said at a round table last week.
"Rights registries were a dirty word when I started," Hooper said. "They're not now. People realise they solve a lot of problems."
The idea is to lower the transaction costs of licensing a copyrighted work. If more people can license content cheaply and easily - rather than just rip it off the web - then higher volumes of low-cost transactions should result.
Blogger Dominic Young described how he had once been in charge of licensing content for a major newspaper group - and quoted £60 a time to make it worthwhile. If the transaction cost could be lowered to pennies, then more people would license the stuff. That's the hope of the Newspaper Licensing Agency too.
"There's a fundamental political dynamic," said Hooper. "If copyright industries can streamline licensing then politicians look at them in a different light."
It's likely to annoy bureaucrats and taxpayer-funded academics who have carved out a niche turning copyright into a regulatory boondoggle. The market-driven approach of free trading makes legislative and regulatory meddling with copyright, to "fix things", redundant.
Hooper said the issue of metadata, specifically the information about a work's creators stored alongside the content, had taken more time to work through than anticipated. Copyright industries are in a transition from cataloging and tracking physical units to issuing bundles of rights - and that's a work in progress.
As we pointed out in July, Hooper's cleverest idea is to reject the top-down approach to IT projects that's blighted much of the public sector. He let slip an interesting story that explains why. In 1968, Hooper said he was invited to examine an early time-sharing system that had been designed to educate nurses in the US. The system was impressive for its time, he said, but it had produced "the most expensive terminals in the world" when the plan had been to use cheaper technology: the costs had ballooned, the project was out of control and it put him off ambitious top-down projects.
So rather than build an uber-database-of-everything, the hub will use whatever databases people already have - the GRD (Global Repertoire Database) for music rights, for example.
"It's not top-down, and it's not government funded," he pointed out. He cited Mixcloud as an innovative web company that had successfully dealt with rights holders.
Any mystery over the copyright hub should soon be dispelled. The next meeting of the Copyright Licensing Steering Group, led by Ros Lynch, will be held in a fortnight, and all subsequent meetings will be public with all minutes published.
With the UK rapidly becoming an international copyright pariah - facing a "firestorm" of lawsuits from US individuals - the digital exchanges offer a cheaper and less risky alternative.
As software libre advocates know, if you have copyright law with solid foundations, you can do wonderful things with it. The GNU GPL owes its existence and endurance to strong intellectual property protections. ®
The problem with much of "IP" is that it has no intrinsic value - it exists only to be licensed or to prevent other people from having it.
So a newspaper might send a team to cover an event and at great cost, but if onlookers take pics with their camera-phones, the value of the photographic team's work is diminished.
If you don't put up barriers to entry in the registry it will be flooded with rubbish from punters taking a punt on their camera phone pics (compare with phone apps). If you do put up barriers to entry, you then need to charge more to cover the costs or end up saying that copyright only applies to licensed industries or some such rubbish.
When it comes down to it, it turns out that what we thought was a good idea (using the internet) wasn't. It turns out once again that the internet outstrips common sense. Even if you do sell a picture, once it is available it can be kept and archived and reused or shared.
What you really need is an idea to make money which doesn't rely on artificial scarcity when duplication is free. Or you need to be able to make money despite piracy. This isn't a freetard manifesto, its good business sense and risk management.
Even wedding photographers make sure they get paid for their work (to their own satisfaction) before they release the photos. Duplicates orders after that are jam, not bread and butter.
I must say this was informative and less rhetoric-laden than many Orlowski pieces on this subject.
That being said, it's verging on disingenuous to suggest that only churlish fools have a problem with the behaviour of rightsholders - I'm delighted to hear that sanity has, more or less, started to prevail. But rightsholders are hardly saints with nary a sin to their name - they count amongst their number the fools who wanted piano rolls banned because they threatened the livelihood of musicians who played live; the twits who keep demanding extension to the duration of copyright (which is fundamentally against the principle of copyright; the point was supposed to be that they get protected sole rights of exploitation in exchange for the work eventually going into the public domain - constant extensions give them protected sole rights while removing their contributions to the public domain, which IMO is not particularly fair), and the twits who insisted that home taping/VHS taping/MP3 downloading is KILLING MUSIC/FILM (only to realise that when someone approached it with a sensible free-market perspective, it turns out there was a load of money to be made).
Rightsholders aren't the entire problem, but they're definitely part of it. But as I say, the main thing I take away from this is satisfaction that everyone involved is, it appears, willing to start getting on with a more sensible approach to solving the problem rather than being silly about it as they have been so far.
Academics don't get anything from the existing system
It's likely to annoy bureaucrats and taxpayer-funded academics who have carved out a niche turning copyright into a regulatory boondoggle.
Why was it necessary to make this uninformed side-swipe at academics?
Those who publish their papers in expensive commercial journals do so because the universities that employ them and the agencies through which they get their funding force them to do so, following the instructions of taxpayer-elected governments.
Whatever kind of journal they use, academics do all the work (research, typesetting, refereeing) but receive no royalties for publication of papers. The royalties on research-level books usually amount to pocket money.
Get your facts right, please.
Besides, it would also be useful if you could tell us how the proposed system would work.