The web has grown up without letting people own and control their own stuff, but a British-backed initiative might change all that, offering a glimpse of how the internet can work in the future. Their work will all be open sourced early next year.
Britain's much-anticipated Copyright Hub was given ministerial blessing when it finally opened its kimono today, boasting a pipeline of over 90 projects covering commercial and free uses.
A handy new site – Copyright done right – has also been launched, explaining what it offers. The initiative has sparked global interest.
Today, it turns out that most people actually do want what they’re missing from today’s internet: property rights (or property-ish rights) for the digital stuff they post to the interwebs. But many have found that copyright just doesn’t work for them. The Hub aims to build rights-aware layers on top of the internet, so that people can track how what they make public is used, much as DNS added ease of use to naming protocols and VPNs added privacy standards to the basic bare-bones internet.
The demo example at the Hub’s coming-out party is easier to understand than explain in words: in the demo, right-clicking on a picture in Google Images takes you straight to some licensing information about that picture.
One-click licensing. Right clicking with the example plug-in enabled automatically finds the owner and displays usage options. The Hub hopes that browser makers will build the protocols into future software.
So what previously took days or weeks to track down and negotiate is handled in the background in fractions of a second, because content has identifiers. By reducing the friction and the cost of licensing to almost zero, lots more licensing should be possible. One can envisage a whole new internet that supports functioning markets growing out of the rancid free-for-all of today’s clickbait-infested swamp.
Dominic Young, head of the Hub, points out that the Hub is totally agnostic about commercial or free uses – because even free software and free content are built on property rights.
"We have no ideology about whether people should make money from it, we just think it should be up to them. Currently they don’t have that choice,” he told us.
“Copyright is actually the freedom to decide what happens to your work. Everyone has it. Should people be able to make their own choice about how it’s used? Most people would say ‘Yes'. Should they have a single choice thrust one them? Most people would say ’No’," Young added.
"Free licences will become very commonplace,” he predicted. "You might simply want to know who is using something of yours. That might lead to a commercial prospect that you might want to take up or reject.”