Shaun Woodward, Creative Industries Minister, has launched a consultation on the Creative Economy Programme draft working group proposals. The CEP - a division of the DCMS - was unveiled in November 2005 as "the first step in Government's desire to make the UK the worlds creative hub."
Their draft recommendations are now open for public comment, so if you have a spare half hour then please drop them a note pointing out your preferences, especially those parts of the documents you don't agree with.
I particularly welcome the proposal to collect together in one place all publicly owned audio and audiovisual material so that it is easier to find and use.
The establishment of a programme to digitally link all publicly owned audio, and audiovisual archives, databases and collections, in order to provide: (i) A source of creative inspiration and reference for the creative industries; and (ii) Public value to UK citizens who will be better able to access publicly owned assets and data and collections.
The Competition and Intellectual Property recommendations properly note that the law today offers less value to consumers of copyright materials than they have come to expect.
There also needs to be greater clarity for consumers and users on how they can locate, access and utilise creative content. These findings support the UK All Party Internet Group results of a consultation into proprietary protections on copyrighted materials and concerns among consumers. The report said: "There is a significant mismatch between what consumers believe they ought to be permitted to do with copyrighted material and what the law allows."
There needs to be a clear read-across from the recommendations of the Gowers Review to the work of Creative Economy Programme (not only this group, but as a whole). The fundamental competition/IP problem appears to be lack of clarity about who owns what and how users can do what and with which and to whom!
Less sensibly the document goes on to recommend using government money to encourage more businesses to use DRM. This proposal should be rejected because in the long run DRM is neither in the interests of business nor the public. The authors are correct in that locking consumers into a single source or outlet should be discouraged by recommending clear standards and interoperable systems, yet this approach does not necessarily require the use of DRM. Open standards are a good thing because they avoid dependence, allowing you to move from one provider to an other with out any extra costs.
For example, digital music providers use different file formats that are incompatible. If you buy a tune from Apple then it won't tend to work on a Microsoft product. Once a user has invested in a digital music collection with Apple, even if a competitor comes with a better bargain that user is motivated to stay with Apple because his investment will be lost if his collection can't be enjoyed through competing products. Open standards prevents this situation from happening. Its also worth noting that Microsoft normally profits from incompatibility, but in the specific instance of music files they advocate interoperability because Apple's iTunes dominates the market and prevents them competing on even terms.
Develop a mechanism to assist SME’s in purchasing and using a specific DRM solution (similar to the BBC's use of DRM for its online archive).
The development of clear standards, accessible trusted third parties and interoperable, transparent DRMs would encourage consumers to take-up legitimate new business models.