This is part of a series of blogposts documenting the CREATe Symposium 2019. In this post, Amy Thomas reports on the “Improving Deliberation, Improving Copyright” workshop which took place on Thursday 10 October 2019.
Closing the symposium, Dr Lee Edwards (PI, LSE) and Dr Giles Moss (Co-I, University of Leeds) presented the initial findings of “Improving Deliberation, Improving Copyright”, an AHRC funded project focussed on developing a more effective consultation process for copyright policy issues.
Based on a series of dialogues with individual stakeholders, Lee and Giles used thematic analysis to identify a range of topics relevant to how consultation processes currently unfold. These included: overall perspectives of consultations; purposes of consultation; the context for consultation; current consultation processes; what works well in consultations; challenges to consultations; and areas for improvement to consultations. They discussed their preliminary findings and participants to the symposium workshop were also asked to reflect on the results based on their own experiences, and identify areas of priority, barriers and strategies for improving consultations.
The findings demonstrate that stakeholders view the consultation process as important means of developing knowledge, enhancing the quality of democracy, as well as contributing more broadly to fulfilling a government’s duty to consult. Many felt that it should be used as a means of gathering evidence, creating balance between groups and achieving inclusion.
However, a deeper analysis indicates that the nature of the highly polarised copyright debate has an important influence on the consultation process. Participants sometimes described the debate in terms of a “battle” or “war” between different groups, and consultation processes could exacerbate divisions. As such, the project emphasises a need for finding a common ground, encouraging deliberation and ultimately introducing new voices into existing power structures.
There are many challenges to achieving this. Some participants expressed concerns that consultations could be symbolic rather than genuine, undermining trust in the process. Some felt that resources to engage in consultations were unevenly distributed, resulting in uneven influence over outcomes. It was also unclear how best to effectively engage all stakeholders – the public especially. In what can often be a highly technical subject, how do the public articulate their opinions? Pre-set forms are not always effective (e.g. “bots”) even when expressing a popular sentiment. Other concerns included ensuring a quality debate between groups so that consultations also fostered mutual respect and understanding.
Of most interest from the perspective of CREATe’s Copyright Evidence project, the findings highlight a belief that policy recommendations should only be based on effective evidence. There was general agreement that effective evidence includes a broad range of multiple sources, obtained from different methods (e.g. qualitative and quantitative) which has been independently researched. Facilitating a better range of copyright evidence is therefore essential for building trust in the consultation process.
A resource page for the “Improving Deliberation, Improving Copyright” project is available here.