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Copyright Hub

Volume 765: debated on Monday 2 November 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what future financial support they intend to provide to the Copyright Hub.

Since 2012, the Government have provided £1.3 million to the Copyright Hub in start-up funding and through the Digital Catapult which is developing the underlying technology of the Hub. We are currently assessing the hub’s need for ongoing funding and will be considering various options for the future.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Of course, most of that has been in kind from the catapult. The Minister is well known for her enthusiasm for the Copyright Hub but when is she going to turn that into real hard financial support? This could be a fantastic resource of huge benefit to our creative industries. It is a licensing infrastructure that could be international. Would it not be extraordinary if Singapore, the US and Australia gave more support than the UK Government?

My Lords, as we have said from day one, the Copyright Hub needs to stand on its own feet in the longer term. It is linked to the wonderful creative industries worth £77 billion. However, we want the Copyright Hub to succeed, as the noble Lord knows, and that is why we recently agreed to provide an extra £100,000 to cover the core costs for the next four months. We are also financing an independent assessment to examine options for the long-term sustainability of the hub and its development.

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that copyright is a form of monopoly and that, while it is desirable that innovation should be recognised and rewarded, it should always be the object of policy to keep the period of monopoly as short as is reasonably possible so that new ideas can circulate freely and rapidly? Does she also recognise that in the digital era such monopolies are increasingly impossible to enforce?

My Lords, the regime that we have introduced for copyright reflects a far-sighted report by Mr Hargreaves, many of whose provisions we have implemented. He was very aware of the balance between creators, rights holders and the consumer. The Copyright Hub is great, because it removes one of the excuses for piracy by making it easy and relatively cheap for potential users to seek and obtain permission to use works that are subject to copyright.

Is the Minister prepared to give a categorical answer to the question from my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones? Is she genuinely enthusiastic about supporting the Copyright Hub, or are her hands tied by the Treasury?

My Lords, I am genuinely enthusiastic about this, because it is like a switchboard for rights. It has huge potential. However, all government projects must provide value for money, and that is why we are looking at the work done so far. We have a prototype—I actually opened it—but we need to make sure that the flight path for the project is good. I agree with the point that this could be extremely positive internationally. We have spent a lot of time with the US and Australia, which are interested in this project going forward.

The Minister mentioned £100,000 of support. I declare my interest as an ambassador for the British Library. Is she aware of the work that the British Library’s Business and IP Centre carries out? Are the Government providing enough support for initiatives like that, which encourage entrepreneurs, creativity and innovation?

My Lords, I am well aware of the great work that the British Library does on this. When I visited, I was delighted to discover that more than 50% of the entrepreneurs using it were female. We certainly support having a network across the country for IP for small entrepreneurs, who can look at, buy and register IP around the country.

My Lords, the Minister has several times expressed the very welcome view that she is on the front foot, leading IP debates and policy in Europe. Does that mean that we can hope to see a British-based EU copyright hub in the very near future?

My Lords, we are talking to the EU, but at the moment the EU is interested in how we are leading the way on the Copyright Hub. However, where the noble Lord, who knows so much about intellectual property, is right as usual, is that digital knows no boundaries and therefore having hub arrangements across the EU is an idea whose time will come.

My Lords, if I may interject again, the Minister mentioned £100,000 for ongoing support for the next few months, plus £100,000 for a study of financial viability. Is this not analysis paralysis? Is it not time we just got with the job and the Government put their money where their mouth is?

It is not analysis paralysis at all. Without the catapult and the money the Government have put in, the Hub could not have been launched, despite the great work done by the creative industries. There have been teething problems—for example, in recruiting the right staff and in ensuring that picture agencies and others are equipped and linked to the Hub. We need a proper project study and that is what we are financing. I talked to Richard Hooper about it and he is supportive.