Comment: New look at copyright key to digital boom

Prince. Picture: AP
Prince. Picture: AP
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OUR lives have been transformed by the adoption of digital information and communication technologies.

The ways in which cultural products such as TV, movies and music are produced, distributed and consumed have changed forever. Those changes have forced content creators and producers to rethink how they do business, and policymakers to search for regulatory frameworks to promote new services.

There have been many questions about the role of copyright in regulating digital commodities – increasingly the output of the £60 billion UK creative economy. How can the creation of content be financed if copying is ubiquitous? Does searching, reading or listening amount to theft? Where should control begin and end?

Today marks the launch of CREATe, the Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy. CREATe stands for Creativity, Regulation, Enterprise and Technology, a four-year collaboration between experts in law, business, economics, technology, psychology and cultural analysis from seven UK universities.

From our base at the University of Glasgow, we will provide policymakers, content creators and producers with guidance to help answer those questions.

In the 2011 Review of Intellectual Property for the UK government, Professor Ian Hargreaves suggested that “unduly rigid application of copyright law” may block innovation and growth. His report postulated that copyright itself may limit the opportunities for the UK media and technology sectors rather than stimulate it.

He recommended reforms, accepted in principle by government, and introduction of a Digital Copyright Exchange.

However, there is a lack of evidence on the effects of these proposals. Independent social science has a role to play in casting new light on this. CREATe is set to provide invaluable research in areas including business models, regulation and enforcement, human rights and the public interest in access to culture, and will help to ensure the creative economy is prepared to face the future.

• Martin Kretschmer is CREATe director and law professor at Glasgow University.