Voluntary Collective Licensing
VCL (Voluntary Collective Licensing) is the framework by which most Reproduction Rights Organisations (RROs) in the English speaking world operate. In voluntary collective licensing, the RRO issues licenses to copy protected material on behalf of those rights holders who have given it a mandate to act on their behalf. Since the right of reproduction is an exclusive right, it is natural to establish the collective management of reprographic reproduction rights on a voluntary basis.
RROs obtain licensing authority from mandates given by national rights holders, and the international repertoire through bilateral agreements with RROs in other countries. These bilateral agreements are based on the principle of reciprocal representation. Many RROs, especially in the Anglo-American (common law) tradition, base their activities generally on voluntary contracts.
In the United States, collective licensing through Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) is based solely on non-exclusive contracts. Authors and publishers determine which works are to be included in different licensing programmes. In some programmes they can set the prices individually for each work.
Even in the case of voluntary licensing, copyright legislation may include stipulations that govern the activities of the RRO. The Copyright Licensing Agency Limited (CLA) in the United Kingdom operates under the following provisions of the Copyright Act:
- CLA must be officially recognised as the national RRO
- In cases where licences are available, free use provisions such as in the field of education (‘fair dealing’) cease to apply
- A Government Minister oversees licensing schemes and licensing bodies, and may extend the scope of existing licensing schemes
- A Copyright Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between users and licensing bodies
In Japan, the Copyright Law provides for the author's right of reproduction with certain limitations on this right. The Special Law on Management Business of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights has been in effect as from October 2001. Under this law, the Japan Reprographic Rights Center (JRRC) was registered and designated as a management business operator in 2002.
In Colombia, Centro Colombiano de Derechos Reprográficos (CEDER) obtained governmental recognition as a collective management organisation in 2000, and the necessary authorisation for operation was granted in 2002 by the relevant government authority (Dirección National de Derecho de Author). These allow CEDER to act as a reproduction rights organisation in Colombia.
There are countries where legislation clearly encourages rights holders to establish reproduction rights organisations. For instance, the Jamaica Copyright Act of 1993 allows for certain limitations and exceptions in the right of reproduction, in cases where voluntary licensing is not readily available. After the establishment of Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY) such photocopying became subject to a licence.
Noank Media, a US corporation which provides access to audio, video, still image, and document files also uses Voluntary Collective Licensing. Berkman Center for Internet & Society also launched Digital Media Exchange (DMX), a P2P content service, operated as a non-profit cooperative which uses the same concept.