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British government report calls for 'streamlined' copyright licensing system

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A British Government report has called for the centralization of copyright management agencies, highlighting the millions of pounds wasted each year and the removal of barriers of entry for new services.

Whitehall UK London
Whitehall UK London

A government study into the state of copyright in the UK has highlighted the unnecessary hoops that potential customers are forced to jump through, with millions of pounds spent each year on locating and clearing the rights to use copyrighted material. The report, undertaken by former Ofcom deputy chairman Richard Hooper, explores whether the current system is fit for purpose, and highlights particular issues within the music, film, and photographic industries.

Hooper spoke to a number of stakeholders concerned with the state of the current system, highlighting cases like the £14,000 cost to the Victoria and Albert museum in London to track down the rights holders of 270 images, or the £10 million annual cost to the BBC in clearing copyright. The UK currently has nine different copyright collection agencies, including the Performing Rights Society (PRS for Music), Phonographic Performance Limited, and Video Performance Limited.

The report concludes that the current system needs to be streamlined, paving the way for a centralized "Digital Copyright Exchange" which would combine these agencies. Hooper told BBC News that this move could foster greater innovation of digital services in the UK, "potentially creating the next Spotify or Netflix." The centralized exchange should offer economies to both the rights holders and their customers, and correct the current "complex and confusing" system. Hooper will submit the finalized version of the report to Business Secretary Vince Cable in July.