A competition has been launched to find better ways of exchanging information between copyright holders and end users, giving companies in the UK the chance to win up to £37,000, to bring their ideas to life.

The Digital Licensing Framework (DLF) contest is being run by IC tomorrow – an organisation set up by the government's Technology Strategy Board in 2010 to enable content owners and application developers to trial their ideas with UK consumers through its test bed.

The total prize money of £180,000, split between six winners, is partly supported by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) Innovation Infrastructure Challenge Fund.

Applicants can enter the competition in one of three categories:

  • Specific sector: Applicants must design a prototype that shows understanding of the licensing landscape in either music, publishing or museums & galleries (one prize for each). The prototype should enable consumers to send licence enquires to rights holders and view licensing information in a meaningful and educational way.
  • Aggregator: Applicants must design a prototype application or service that aggregates licensing information from multiple sectors or media types including music, publishing, images and others.
  • Intermediary: Applicants must design a prototype service that provides an 'alternative' or 'enriched' source of licensing information from multiple rights holders, using existing metadata or content specialists (two prizes).

Pitches must be submitted online by 22 March. The six winners will be awarded contracts of up to £37,000 on 4 April, and will have two months to build their prototypes before trials take place using IC tomorrow’s digital platform in June and July. The trials will be attended by leading rights holders such as Bridgeman Art Library, EMI, Pearson, PRS for Music and Tate.

“Copyrighted content is often integral to innovative start-ups and media companies, yet there are a number of challenges when it comes to exchanging information between rights holders and rights users,” said Dr Nick Appleyard, head of digital at the Technology Strategy Board. “This competition will bring the industry’s finest entrepreneurs together to develop ways that streamline this process and support a new generation of commercial opportunities.”

The contest is open to any startup or company working in rights management, content metadata cataloguing and identification systems, content aggregation or distribution and rights management workflow solutions. For more information visit IC tomorrow's website here.

The news comes amid reports that more European countries are shying away from the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Both Poland and the Czech Republic have decided to delay ratification of the intellectual-property treaty, despite signing it on 26 January, and Cyprus, Estonia, The Netherlands, Germany and Slovakia are still refusing to sign.

So far 22 European Union member states have signed the treaty, which aims to strengthen copyright and intellectual-property rights enforcement, but opponents of the deal say it leaves the door open for countries to force Internet service providers to become the unofficial police of the Internet.

Meanwhile, equivalent digital copyright legislation in the United States – the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – has also hit the rocks, following a mass protest from the likes of Wikipedia, Google and Reddit.