Digital Agencies Could Be Guaranteed Commercialisation Of Public Commissions

When public bodies contract private digital agencies to build projects, who should retain the rights for future exploitation? The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is testing six possible frameworks to find out, in what is a further government-led liberalisation of intellectual property.

June’s Digital Britain white paper criticised the “wasteful warehousing of rights” by public bodies who prohibit commercial re-use of intellectual property on digital media content they commission. ” So it tasked NESTA with setting down new groundrules…

NESTA is proposing giving private companies “further revenue streams” by letting them “keep hold of some or all of their intellectual property” because “many departments use IP frameworks that prohibit the re-use of IP” despite being compelled by Crown copyright to “maximise potential economic benefit”.

NESTA’s six proposed frameworks cover the spectrum – giving all rights to either the producer or contractor, with variations in between, plus one provision that commissioned work be made entirely open source.

It’s partnering with TV producers’ umbrella PACT, the Cabinet Office, the Office of Public Sector Information, Kew Gardens, Tate and Arts Council England and is seeking further organisations for a pilot beginning in the new year. There’s also a survey.

What kinds of work is NESTA talking about here? A spokesperson tells paidContent:UK: “One example might be a new website that the NHS commissions where there is underlying software code with functionality that can be re-used with commercial clients. Another may be that a local authority commissioning an educational Flash game, which can then be re-licensed to other local authorities.”

But any changes won’t produce legislative amendments – the frameworks will only affect deal terms in public procurement.

On the legislative front, away from the three-strikes hub-bub, the Intellectual Property Office is asking the European Commission to further liberalise IP law to allow more re-use of copyrighted works. That includes easier re-use of orphan works by both cultural orgs and businesses, the creation of sound/image mashups, format-shifting and sharing material with family and friends.