And we’re off. For my second meeting Nick took me to meet Diane Hamer, a top BBC copyright lawyer (her business card says ‘Trade Mark Lawyer’ but she’s more general than that). We chatted about the challenges for intellectual property in the digital era and for the BBC in particular (and Nick bought me a super-expensive blueberry smoothie: your licence fee in action).
Diane’s day-to-day concerns are with defending the BBC’s rights in the content it creates but also with defending the BBC’s values as embodied in the brand and in the content itself. These are significant challenges and many issues are evidently unique to the BBC.
We talked a bit about Backstage and the Backstage licence and I remembered Azeem Azhar’s BBC Public Licence from a few years back. I also talked a bit about the way the geeks have been innovating furiously around IP for some decades now: forking new and interesting licence regimes more-or-less all the time. From Stallman‘s fundamentalist GPL to the more permissive semi-commercial versions of Open Source offered by the big vendors, via hybrids from Apache and Mozilla et al. I wondered why we haven’t seen such innovation in content rights…
I also mentioned a piece I wrote on my own blog a couple of months ago in which I urged a more active stance from the BBC and suggested that the Corporation might even take up the role of ‘rights activist’ in the dialogue with content creators and users: inventing and promoting new digital-era rights models and pushing for change to the old ones where they are self-evidently broken.
I also wondered if the BBC had such a thing as a ‘Rights Lab’, analogous to the various experimental and R&D groups that exist here: a group that might devise and test new rights models in laboratory conditions or even on live content. That would be interesting wouldn’t it?
So, no conclusions, no grand plans to overturn the industrial-era rights regime, just an interesting chat about copyright, branding and content. More to come, I’m sure.