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Is It Time For Copyright 2.0?

October 16, 2008 Leave a comment

The calls are getting louder for an updated global copyright system to better address the fast evolving digital content economy of a hyper-connected world. The key question, it seems, would be where best to start?

An excellent article by Lawrence Lessig, in the Wall Street Journal, spells out the futility of trying to govern a digital content universe with an analogue biased copyright system. He also suggests five key changes to the copyright system that should set us in the right direction, and I have paraphrased / extended / commented on them, as follows:

1. Deregulate amateur remix – non-commercial and/or non-professional reuse of digital content should not be so tightly regulated. Amateur creativity should be encouraged and if, God forbid, it makes any money then the original creator should get a cut. What?

2. Deregulate the “copy” in Copyright – copyright is centered around the act of copying a work, however the digital realm is pervaded by this very activity (i.e. pretty much anytime content is transferred, played or otherwise reused), therefore digital copyright enforcement should be more focused on the use of the work rather than, as is currently the case, the act of copying (or perhaps “even making available for copying”, to stretch the point).

3. Simplify Copyright – Please make copyright clearer, and simpler to understand, for mere end-users and other “casual pirates” of content. We are not all big media companies with access to expensive lawyers (and a vulture culture for forensic litigation). Enough said.

4. Restore Efficiency – copyright is an inefficient property system, but since technology now makes it easier to enforce, it should be the responsibility of copyright owners to maintain their own copyright after a shorter, automatic, 14 year term. Therefore copyright owners would need to clearly state their claim on a work after the initial term expires. Hmmm. Not so sure about this one, but I’ll defer to Mr. Lessig’s legal expertise.

5. Decriminalise Generation-X – Stop suing the youth. File sharing is not going to stop anytime soon and legal actions do not seem to have slowed it down or compensated artistes in any significant way. It is now time to explore various options for ensuring that artistes get paid even in a file sharing world, period.

It certainly all sounds like a load of common sense, but I’ll leave you to make up your own minds. In the meantime, I think the best way forward may also benefit from the idea that, in a global digital content economy, (where content flows easily across national boundaries), we should seek to implement and embrace a global framework for copyright, in order to lessen the reliance on national systems that far too often add undue complexity to the notionally simple concept of Intellectual Property. This is, in many ways, similar to Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s call for an overhaul of the global financial regulatory system that would better serve the needs of a global financial economy. Perhaps the copyright system should also take heed before it suffers a similar fate.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

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FirstTuesday: The Entrepreneur’s Ball

October 8, 2008 Leave a comment

On Tuesday evening, I had the distinctly heady experience of speaking to an audience of some 100 Entrepreneurs, Investors and Service Providers in an event to “Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of UK’s Internet Industry”. This informal event, organised by the eponymous FirstTuesday.org, consisted of three brief panel discussions (focusing on the past, present and future of the Internet), and interspersed with severe bouts of furious networking (the primary goal of the event) between attendees. The representative panel members included: Peter Whitehead (Moderator and FT Digital Business Editor); Sean Phelan (Entrepreneur and founder of Multimap); Julie Meyer (Investor and founder of FirstTuesday & Ariadne Capital); and yours truly (Service Provider and Capgemini Consultant).

Some key take-outs from the event include:

1. Capping the Crunch on Investment – With potentially less money available, entrepreneurs and start-ups must be ready to ‘bootstrap’ their own business development in order to ride out the current dire economic situation, and to prove the viability and resilience of their business models

2. Successful entrepreneurs never say die – The next wave of successful Internet businesses start-ups will be the ones that can adapt and survive even in adversity (such as in the post ‘dotcom bubble’ era).

3. Technology won’t stop evolving – from the static / info-centric Web1.0, to the hyper-collaborative web2.0 and potentially contextual / dynamic WebN.0; it seems that technology-enabled change is definitely here to stay, therefore we (i.e. the entrepreneurs, investors and service providers) must evolve our models accordingly

4. The role of service providers – In my opinion, service providers should lead the way in enabling and supporting their client’s entrepreneurial efforts and business transformation goals based on a clear vision and broad industry experience / expertise. Our approach might include:

The TechnoVision 2012 – This concept describes how and why service providers must have a comprehensive perspective on the evolution of technology, as well as its likely impact on their client’s business and the way they work. This is supported by initiatives like RAIN (RApid INnovation), RDV (Rapid Design & Visualisation) and the ASE (Accelerated Solutions Environment)
• Thought leadership – Capgemini’s CTOs and subject matter experts have become authors, and evangelists for change, withseveral books published on various forward looking and game changing topics like: Mashups, Mesh Collaboration, 21st Century Business & IT Communication, Wealth Management and The World Beyond DRM.

The question then remains as to whether service providers like Capgemini, and other similar organisations, should invest time and effort in supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, and if so what would be the best way to go about it (in light of lessons learnt from the ‘dotcom era’)?

There is no easy answer other than to highlight the fact that; given the harsh economic realities of a changing global business environment, it might be prudent or even vital for all segments of developed economies to invest more resources towards realising a coherent framework for a truly global digital economy, based on a more evolved concept and interpretation of intellectual property rights. Basically, not everything will be free, open source, or ad-funded in tomorrow’s digital economy, much as we might wish it to be so, and I welcome any observations to the contrary.

In conclusion, I thought this event was an excellent networking forum for entrepreneurs, investors and other Internet / start-up cognoscenti in attendance; and I also met a couple of attendees with really interesting ideas which I can’t reveal here on pain of discomgooglation (yes, it is a word). I would gladly recommend it.

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Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2008/10/

Beware, the Tides of Octember (sic).

October 2, 2008 Leave a comment

September was busy, with many interesting developments that provide further evidence of the never-ending struggle between: the good, the bad, and the ugly, in the ongoing transition towards a digital content economy – never mind the real ‘credit crunched’ version. The implications are manifold and open to interpretation as I’m sure you’ll find. 

Note: the verdict at the end of each story represents my take on the likely impact of that particular development. It is only an expression of my opinion, and the right to free speech, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you all that.

  1. EU says no to 3 strikes rule, but ISPs may still get to throttle your bandwidth:

    Last week the European parliament voted against implementing the “3 strikes rule” across the EU on the grounds that it restricts user’s rights and freedoms (full story can be found here). [Verdict = 1 step forward]

  2. RIAA vs. Jammie Thomas – case headed for retrial:

    A US district judge has called for the retrial of this case which, last year, ordered the defendant, Jammie Thomas, to pay a fine of $222,000 for making songs available for download. According to this digital music news article, the evidence of infringement did not really stack up given that the party downloading the tracks was working as an agent of the plaintiff (i.e. RIAA). [Verdict = 1 step forward]

  3. Punishing Innovation – the death of Muxtape.com:

    The recent demise of Muxtape, an innovative music start-up, which allowed users to upload MP3 files for streaming in a mixtape format just goes to show how tough the struggle can get be (even for those that choose to play by the rules, and provide a legal service from the very start). The full story, as told by Muxtape’s founder, is posted on the website and it paints the picture of a dysfunctional music industry with and exhausting & ultimately unworkable licensing and legal process. [Verdict = 3 steps backward]

  4. MySpace Music launched at last:

    The highly anticipated launch of MySpace music (with backing of the four major labels) was one of the highlights of the past month, and was met with a blogstorm of mixed opinions and criticisms, as perhaps could be expected for an outfit of that stature. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the music scene. [Verdict = No Movement]

  5. Return to Phorm – BT’s Webwise for targeted advertisement:

    The final trial of BT’s targeted advertising platform commenced on the 30th of September, and it is aimed at selected BT customers who can elect to have their browsing habits monitored, in order to receive better targeted ads based on their preferences. The Open Rights group has published four reasons not to participate in this trial, but given that this is not a mandatory, or hidden exercise, I think it is an interesting one to watch for all the right reasons. [Verdict = 2 step forward]

There are several other examples but I’m sure you get the picture, September was a busy month. However, it looks like October could be even more interesting with some stories already brewing as follows:

  • Pre-emptive & “Counter-emptive” lawsuits – RealNetworks RealDVD vs. MPAA: Either way the lawyers win the day in this particular battle. (For more coverage click here (Reuters) and here (Gartner)
  • Online Royalty Decision – Apple threatens to shutdown iTunes: According to this article, the Copyright Royalty Board will make a decision today that may bring about the closure of iTunes if they insist on increasing the royalty payable to song publishers (more information here)

It will be interesting to see how these stories develop over the next few weeks, but one conclusion is that there is some progress overall. However the rate of progress may have to increase quite rapidly in order to get us to the destination of an enhanced digital content experience. The one nagging question is that if nobody knows what this destination looks like, then how will we know if and when we get there?

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.