New digital rights agency to be industry led?

Government needs to stay out of the way when it comes to digital rights, leaving infringement, markets and other business changes in the hands of industry, two leading political digital pundits have said of the creation of a new digital rights agency.

A digital rights agency was proposed in Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, in order to manage the issue of copyright content online a problem recently highlighted in the battle between PRS for Music and YouTube, which saw music videos pulled from the UK version of the video sharing site.

Calling for input on how a new "digital rights agency" should work, David Lammy and Lord Stephen Carter the ministers for intellectual property and technology, respectively laid out their thoughts in a new paper.

In the paper, Lammy and Carter propose that the new agency should aim to reduce illegal peer-to-peer file sharing by creating digital content markets, changing the way businesses work, educating consumers and reducing piracy. The first two should be industry lead, the pair said, and the "government should stay out of the way" and focus on educating consumers.

They added: "Industry will need to agree its own mechanisms for tackling civil infringement within the legislative framework."

With that in mind, government is also looking for ideas on how best to educate the public, support industry efforts to create such digital content markets and create civil copyright law. Two key issues under discussion are whether the agency should be independently run by industry and backed up by Ofcom, and where the funding should come from.

Lammy said such an agency would keep consumers on the right side of the law and make sure artists get paid. "A properly worked out rights agency could be a real step forward," he said. "We can't have a system where even net-surfing 12 year olds have to understand copyright in order to keep themselves and their parents safe within the law."

Lammy added: "We need to make it easier for consumers to do the right thing. The internet has become an integral part of daily life. You shouldn't need to be an underwriter to take out an insurance policy, and you shouldn't need legal training to surf the web."

Carter said the UK's creative industries are key to national competitiveness. "But in the new digital age, copyright infringement has become easier and more socially acceptable, so it's clear we need some form of legislative backstop for the protection of rights as well as new and innovative ways to access legal content."