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A new online platform to help facilitate the licensing of copyrighted works in the UK is now being piloted.

The Copyright Hub centralises information on who individuals and businesses need to contact and gain permission from to "copy, adapt, share or distribute" music, text, images, video or other multimedia that is protected by copyright.

The Hub also enables rights holders to register their works as being theirs, although such participation is voluntary.

In a review of the UK's intellectual property framework in 2011, Professor Ian Hargreaves recommended that a new copyright exchange be set up to enable owners of copyrighted material to licence the use of their material to users through an online mechanism.

Hargreaves claimed a digital copyright exchange (DCE) could benefit the UK economy by up to £2bn, and said the system would make it easier for users of copyright material to obtain the right licences and encourage legal use of copyrighted content.

Hargreaves also said that a DCE would improve the prospects for the UK's creative industries across the world and make it easier for small companies and new entrants to the copyright market to establish themselves. The Government broadly backed Hargreaves' recommendations and appointed former Ofcom deputy chairman Richard Hooper to lead a feasibility study into a new digital copyright exchange.

In July last year Hooper concluded his study and recommended that a new Copyright Hub be established so as to allow rights holders to licence the use of their content through a simpler, more transparent and less costly system than currently exists.

"We are today just dipping our toes in the water," Hooper said, according to the IPKat blog. "This is a pilot from which we will learn a lot and which will allow us to build firm foundations for the future. We are not trying to do everything at once and are approaching the whole project in an organic, step by step way. We do not subscribe to the view that we should, at this stage, spend large sums of money building something in the hope that people will come."

It is anticipated that a wider range of organisations will be listed as participating in the Copyright Hub during 'Phase 2' of the project, expected to be undertaken next year. The Copyright Hub Launch Group (CHLG) is encouraging feedback on the pilot.

In a statement issued last month, the CHLG said that the Copyright Hub should develop, during Phase 2, "from a simple signposting and navigation device using hyperlinks into an intelligent 'router'" where users will be able to access rights management information through "federated searches". Phase 3 of the Copyright Hub would see "any extra functionality needed for creators to register rights information with third party registries linked to the Hub", according to the CHLG.

However, as yet funding for the development of the Hub remains uncertain. The Government has provided some funding to facilitate the pilot project. CHLG said that an option under consideration is for rights holders involved in supplying works for licence to pay an annual fee in order to "connect to the Hub". Eventually, a combination of membership fees, a percentage of licensing fees paid for through the Hub and advertising revenues could be put towards the financing of the framework, it said.

Copyright © 2013, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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