Will the Digital Rights Agency be Britain's most hated?

DIUS, BEER and DCMS have just issued a joint consultation paper to follow up the suggestion in Digital Britain for a Digital Rights Agency. It is an interesting  idea but, like the Child Support Agency, could end up piggy-in-the-middle between the bitterly irreconcilable. 


The announcement clearly states that the paper is not intended to form the consultation on the specific proposals in Section 13 of the Interim Digital Britain Report but is “to start a discussion about how a rights agency might work.

Responses should be sent to DBR@ipo.gov.uk by March 30th. That does not leave time for any discussion forums or meetings but does leave time for direct input.

I was “political engineer” for the original FAST campaign to extend copyright to cover computer software. My personal test of “success” then, and now, is “whether, looking back a decade or os later, we still felt we could not have done much better, gven what we knew at the time – as opposed to hindsight.”  

I have no regrets on what we sought to do then – even though that solution is now well past its “sell by” date. Despite, perhaps because of, the headline I given to this blog I regard this consultation as a most imaginative way of forcing the pace on a long overdue debate.

I am not sanguine about the likelihood of a constructive way forward but look forward to being proved wrong.

A “Rights Agency” that could achieve that, at affordable cost, might even be loved.

P.S. Somewhere I still have on file the rights agreement I signed for the 1996 IT Skills Trends  Report with the then publisher of Computer Weekly. We were looking forward to a world in which Reed would police my rights (and those of its other authors) over all media, around the world, and ensure we got a reasonable cut. My rights and royalties (and their exclusivity) would fade out as my material moved from innovative to mainstream to old hat. 

I also remember the subsequent discussion of whether to take action on our “piracy” problem: employment agencies who took my report “on approval” and then returned a battered copy saying they did not want it.

Provided they rather more for their Computer Weekly adverts and/or gave me decent fees for speaking to their clients we were content to put up with “piracy as marketing”.

The distinction between “controlled piracy” as part of the business model and “bankrupcy by systemic IPR theft” was one of the lesson I had learned from the original FAST campaign and then discovered was also ingrained in the collective wisdom of Reed. It needs to be better reflected in current debate         

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