“A strong IP regime is an engine of growth, NOT a barrier” says UK broadcaster

This morning ICOMP attended the UK Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s eighth evidence session to explore the ways in which broadcasters and broadcasting associations are supporting the creative economy and areas in which the UK government could contribute. Among the panel of witnesses were representatives from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and BskyB.

Among the topics raised for discussion was the IP framework in the UK and the reforms suggested to it by the Hargreaves Review in 2011.

By way of a brief memory-refresh, the Hargreaves Review was commissioned in 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron in order to ascertain whether laws designed 300 years ago to incentivise innovation by protecting creators’ rights are now obstructing innovation and economic growth. In response, the Review issued 10 top-line recommendations including the following:

  • Reform should be driven my economic evidence rather than lobbying clout.
  • The establishment of a Digital Copyright Exchange so rights holders can more efficiently license their content.
  • Legislation to enable the licensing of orphan works .
  • Creating pragmatic exceptions to copyright which protect activities such as library archiving and format-shifting for personal use, which do not prejudice its core objective: incentivising content creation.
  • An evidence-based assessment of the connection between design rights and innovation.
  • The Intellectual Property Office should be given the necessary legal mandate to pursue economic objectives, access data and issue statutory opinions.

The broad message which came out of today’s session was that, subject to a few nuances, many broadcasters are cautiously supportive Hargreaves’ recommendations. The BBC and Channel 4 both agreed with the Review’s decision to stop short of creating a “fair use” exemption to IP legislation (as is the case in the US) and supported the notion that a balance could be better achieved by carving out certain exemptions to the UK’s existing framework such as  the “personal use” exemption. Both were also in favour of a refined method by which content-creators could more efficiently licence their content. Indeed, as the BBC’s Group Director for Strategic Operations, John Tate remarked: “Ownership rules must be respected but there could be slicker systems for the clearing of rights”.

The one substantive caveat came from ITV’s Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Magnus Brooke. Interestingly, he said that the aspect of Hargreaves with which ITV took particular issue was the tone.  The impression given by the Review was a robust framework of IP legislation was a deterrent to investment in creativity. This was unhelpful and untrue.

Said Brooke: “A strong IP regime is an engine of growth, NOT a barrier”. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.


ICOMP Secretariat