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Posts Tagged ‘digital content economy’

Copyright and Technology in 2013

November 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Last month’s conference on copyright and technology provided plenty of food for thought from an array of speakers, organisations, viewpoints and agendas. Topics and discussions ran the gamut of increasingly obvious “business models are more important than technology” to downright bleeding edge “hypersonic activation of devices from outdoor displays “. There was something to take away for everyone involved. Read on for highlights.

The Mega Keynote interview: Mega’s CEO Vikram Kumar, discussed how the new and law-abiding cloud storage service is proving attractive to professionals who want to use and pay for the space, security and privacy that Mega provides. This is a far cry from the notorious MegaUpload, and founder Kim Dotcom’s continuing troubles with charges of copyright infringement, but there are still questions about the nature of the service – e.g. the end-to-end encryption approach which effectively makes it opaque to outside scrutiny.  Read more about it here.

Anti-Piracy and the age of big data – Mark Monitor’s Thomas Sehested talked about the rise of data / content monitoring and anti-piracy services in what he describes as the data driven media company. He also discussed the demise of content release windows, and how mass / immediate release of content across multiple channels lowers piracy, but questioned if this is more profitable.

Hadopi and graduated response – Hadopi’s Pauline Blassel gave an honest overview on the impact of Hadopi, including evidence of some reduction in piracy (by factor of 6M-4M) before stabilsation. She also described how this independent public authority delivers graduated response in a variety of ways e.g. from raising awareness to imposing penalties and focusing primarily on what is known as PUR (aka ‘Promotion les Usage Responsible’)

Auto Content Recognition (ACR) and the 2nd Screen – ACR is a core set of tools (including DRM, watermarking and fingerprinting), and the 2nd screen opportunity (at least for broadcasters) is all about keeping TV viewership and relevance in the face of tough competition for people’s time and attention. This panel session discussed monetisation of second screen applications, and the challenges of how TV is regulated, pervasive and country specific. Legal broadcast rights is aimed at protection of broadcast signals, which triggers the 2nd screen application, (e.g. via ambient / STB / EPG based recognition). This begs the question of what regulation should be applied to the 2nd screen, and what rights apply? E.g. Ads on TV can be replaced in the 2 screen, but what are the implications?

Update on the Copyright Hub – The Keynote address by Sir Richard Hooper, chair of the Copyright Hub and co-author of the 2012 report on Copyright Works: Streamlining Copyright Licensing for the Digital Age, was arguably the high point of the event. He made the point that although there are issues with copyright in the digital age, the creative industries need to get off their collective backsides and streamline the licensing process before asking for a change in copyright law. He gave examples of issues with the overly complex educational licensing process and how the analogue processes are inadequate for the digital age (e.g. unique identifiers for copyright works).

Sir Richard Hooper

Sir Richard Hooper

The primary focus of the Copyright Hub, according to Sir Richard, is to enable high volume – low value transactions, (e.g. to search, license and use copyright works legally) by individuals and SMEs. The top tier content players already have dedicated resources for such activities hence they’re not a primary target of the Copyright Hub, but they’ll also benefit by removing the need to deal with trivial requests for licensing individual items (e.g. to use popular songs for wedding videos on YouTube).

Next phase work, and other challenges, for the Copyright Hub include: enabling consumer reuse of content, architectures for federated search, machine to machine transactions, orphan works registry & mass digitisation (collective licensing), multi licensing for multimedia content, as well as the need for global licensing. Some key messages and quotes in the ensuing Q&A include:

  • “the Internet is inherently borderless and we must think global licensing, but need to walk before we can run”
  • “user-centricity is key.  People are happy not to infringe if easy / cheap to be legal”
  • “data accuracy is vital, so Copyright Hub is looking at efforts from Linked Content Coalition and Global Repertoire Database”
  • “Metadata is intrinsic to machine to Machine transactions – do you know it is a crime to strip metadata from content?”
  • “Moral rights may add to overall complexity”

As you can probably see from the above, this one day event delivered the goods and valuable insights to the audience, which included people from the creative / content industries, as well as technologists, legal practitioners, academics and government agencies. Kudos to MusicAlly, the event organiser, and to Bill Rosenblatt, (conference chair), for a job well done.

Next Stop: I’ll be discussing key issues and trends with Digital Economy and Law at a 2 day event, organised by ACEPI,  in Lisbon. Watch this space.

An IP System Fit for the 21st Century

Last week, I attended a breakfast meeting at the House of Commons to discuss and reflect on practical issues around implementing recommendations of the Hargreaves Report, as well as ways in which the IP system can be evolved to better enable the benefits from 21st Century business and technology opportunities.

UK House of Parliament

UK House of Parliament

This event, organised by the Industry and Parliament Trust, featured brief talks by Professor Ian Hargreaves (author of the IP Review report & recommendations – download it here), Ben White (Head of IP at the British Library), and Nico Perez (co-founder of startup, MixCloud), plus Q&A style discussions with the attending group of politicians and business people from relevant industries. Some key observations and comments are:

  • London has the largest cluster of IP related start-ups, as well as the biggest hub for VCs, in Europe
  • There has been a lot of international interest in the Hargreaves report and recommendations (the good professor regularly gets calls from interested observers across the globe). Also, the review findings and recommendations had good traction with the UK government.
  • Digital economy versus creative economy; are they one and the same (i.e. is there and/or should there really be a difference)?
  • The larger creative industry players (e.g. publishers), and their lobbyists, are not in full agreement with the review findings and / or recommendations, and remain firmly resistant to change
  • According to one attendee, the interests of creative stakeholder (e.g. content creators) were not well represented or served by the review findings and recommendations
  • Collecting societies act like de facto monopolies, which can make life difficult for some more innovative start-ups
  • Broadcast TV players are trying to innovate and catch up with what consumers are already doing in their homes, but the current IP system is not sufficiently geared towards enabling such initiatives.

Note: Further information, comments and observations can be found in the IPT blog post about this event.

The upshot of the above points, in my opinion, is that a new / evolved IP system must really be geared towards dual targets, i.e. to help simplify and facilitate the use and reuse of IP works, especially in the digital realm. Such a focus would undoubtedly go a long way towards addressing the legion of non-technological challenges faced by most innovators, entrepreneurs and investors in the creative digital industries. For example, according to an article (see: The Library of Utopia), published by MIT technology review, “the major problem with constructing a universal library nowadays has little to do with technology. It’s the thorny tangle of legal, commercial, and political issues that surrounds the publishing business.”

These are pretty much the same issues to be found in similar ventures within publishing and other major creative industries, e.g.: Music (think cross border licensing for the much vaunted Celestial Jukebox), or a global film and image library (e.g. a mash-up of Hulu, Netflix, Corbis and Getty Images). In all cases, technology is not the stumbling block, because the bigger challenges lie with any combination of: business strategy, commercial models, legal / political / cultural mindsets, encountered along the way.

Having said that, it can be argued that such hurdles are not sustainable, for various reasons, not least of which is that individuals (or customers, casual pirates, consumers, freetards etc. – take your pick) are already way ahead of the curve in terms of digital content / technology, and will often use it exactly as they see fit.

This means that established incumbent players in the creative industries are forever playing a reactive / catch-up game, instead of pursuing or encouraging discovery of the next big thing. As a result, most disruptive propositions will invariably have a high impact on established business models, especially if and when they harness the natural instincts of individual users. An interesting example could be the recently launched Google Drive, complete with built-in OCR capability (which will enable users to digitize and search scanned content). Could this ultimately lead to a user generated version of Google Books?

To conclude, an IP system worthy of the 21st century is an urgent necessity, but there is also pressing need to keep in mind the big picture, which is that the Internet is a global enabler / platform, therefore any new IP system must likewise be global in scope. The UK, with its wealth of creative talent, plus such efforts as the IP review and recommendations, may be in a unique position to provide some leadership on the best way forward for IP in this 21st century.

How Can You Measure Real Value?

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since my last post, but then nothing much has changed, perhaps because, in real terms, a few weeks is really not that long, even in the fast-paced world of digital technology and innovation. However, it could just be proof of that old saying: “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, right?

Although, on the surface, it might not appear that much has changed, there are evident signs of continuous progress in several areas, including: technology and innovation; user experience and social networking / media / business; mobility and data of the large variety (aka big data). Many other experts and analysts, across various media and other channels, do a great job of observing / commenting on these topics and trends that I won’t bother trying to rehash them here.

In any case, the point I really wish to explore is that such developments, trends and indicators seem to point towards a new value exchange paradigm and/or system, sometime in the not too distant future. This notion is clearly described by Tim O’Reilly, at the last Strata Conference, where he talked about a fundamental need to find better ways for “measuring the economic impact of the sharing economy”. Among other things, he asks the key question, in my opinion, of how to measure the real value of sharing, particularly where traditional economic value yardsticks, (e.g. typical financial metrics), are no longer adequate for the task. He also described the often unmeasured benefits to be derived from the sharing economy (e.g. enriching an ecosystem of which you are part), versus the sometimes destructive impact of a profit-led, financially measured system (e.g. the contribution of global financial institutions to the current economic shambles). It would appear in this new paradigm that the way forward would involve “creating more value than you capture”, which, somewhat counter-intuitively, actually works to your advantage.

Perhaps this paradigm shift will be most realisable, (at least for the content industry), via a strategy of diversification and multi-publishing, which together increases the likelihood of better traction / success for content, via multiple touch-points, partnerships and hooks to end consumers. A couple of examples, which describe real life scenarios in e-book publishing and music licensing, are outlined below as follows:

  1. E-Book Publishing: A recent post on CopyrightandTechnology.com discusses Harry Potter’s DRM Free e-Book offering, which runs somewhat counter to conventional wisdom for publishing such valuable properties in fully DRM’ed electronic formats, for fear of piracy. However this works for Harry Potter on many levels, especially considering how this would complement and create further opportunities for their existing and future merchandising initiatives.
  2. Music Licensing: An article in the Berklee Music Business Journal examined the pros and cons of Coca-Cola’s equity stake in a music licensing startup. On the one hand, a major global consumer brand partners with a music outfit to source original musical content for its marketing campaigns; on the other hand the artistes, (often independent, unsigned and eager to be heard), get an opportunity to gain access to Coca-Cola’s global marketing might – which beats anything a record label can provide these days. Verdict: Win / Win!
  3. Streaming Movies: The key players in on-demand video streaming services, e.g.: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon (i.e. Prime and LoveFilm), and latterly Sky, all offer different value propositions to the consumer, but in my opinion, the winner/s will likely emerge from those that are willing to leverage multiple customer propositions / channels / formats (e.g. books, music, DVD and perhaps devices).

In conclusion, it is becoming increasingly harder to ignore such trends / evidence / indicators that suggest a move towards multiple consumer propositions (including pricing), multi touch points (channels / interactions) and multi-formats is rapidly gaining ground. This makes it even more imperative to find a better yardstick for measuring the real value of content, products and services for both suppliers and consumers. It seems to me that we’re likely heading for a post monetary value exchange and recognition system, and hopefully one that is more in keeping with the post-global realities of a digitally connected planet. I remain optimistic, and fully convinced that money is not, and perhaps has never really been, the best yardstick for measuring true value.

Copyright Barks And Reality Bites

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Perhaps it’s the fine August weather, but the announcement of support by the UK Government for all  ten fairly sensible recommendations on Intellectually Property reform (by the last independent Review of Intellectual Property), gives rise to some optimism about the future of copyright and other forms of IP, in the UK at least.

The press release, which can be found on the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website, states that Ministers have accepted the recommendations “which estimate a potential benefit to the UK economy of up to £7.9 billion.”  Who can argue with those numbers at a time of sorely needed economic growth, I wonder?

Anyway, it goes on to highlight some of the key recommendations including:

  • A Digital Copyright Exchange – i.e. a market place where licences to copyright content can be bought or sold. The question to answer is how such an exchange will look and work.
  • Limited Private Copying – also known as format shifting; whereby it will no longer be illegal to copy legally purchased content from one format to another (e.g. from CD to PC). This one is just a reality update, in my opinion.
  • Copyright Exception for Parody – basically introduces a new exception to Copyright that will make it legal to parody someone else’s work without seeking prior permission.
  • Copyright Exception for Text and Data Mining – another exception to legalise the use of existing search and analysis techniques for research (e.g. medicinal or pharmaceutical research)
  • Clearance for the use of Orphan Works – Resolves a particularly vexing issue that prevents the legal use of Orphan Works (i.e. where no owner can be identified).
  • Evidence Based Future Policy on IP – This makes the case for future IP policies to be backed by solid evidence. This is an interesting one which may well be decided by execution in spite of its noble sentiment.

Also, according to the press release, “a new intellectual property crime strategy and international strategy for intellectual property have been published”, to direct the enforcement of IP crimes and issues at home and abroad.

As you can imagine, there’s been lots of reaction to this and other interesting developments, (e.g. the decision, by OFCOM, to drop the Digital Economy Act provision for website-blocking which would compel ISPs to block sites that host copyright infringing content). But there’s always a certain amount of fear mongering and doom saying associated with any such announcement and, in my opinion, they don’t amount to much until the words are turned into action by their execution – which will effectively make or break original intentions. In any case, I sincerely hope this development will help to bring a new era for Copyright leadership, in the same country where it all started, with the Statute of Anne!

Disclosure: This author helped to gather and draft the Institute’s response to the Independent Review’s Call for Evidence earlier this year.

The Digital Economy Bill is Here To Stay, So Get Over It?

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The passing of this controversial bill by the UK House of Commons evoked major outrage by a vociferous and connected online public. But what is the real issue at stake here? Is it the bill itself, or is it the rushed ‘wash up’ process through which it will apparently now become law? Or then again, is it just the petulant chagrin of a seemingly thwarted group of connected people?

On the 7th of April 2010, the BBC News website reported that: “MPs Approve Digital Economy Bill”. But that simple headline does not convey the online drama that occurred during the voting process, which resulted in an overwhelming 189 for, and 47 votes against, the bill in what is increasingly perceived at best to be a rushed job in the wash-up period before the general elections. All this and more can be found by simply doing a search on Twitter for tweets with hash tag: #debill.

To all intent and purposes, the progress of this bill and the process involved to get it thus far also highlights certain observations, as noted in near real-time commentary by various bloggers and tweets, amongst which include:

  1. Democracy is changing, at an observable pace, as witnessed by the onslaught of comments and expressions of disgust at the unseemly haste at which this bill has moved through the parliamentary process
  1. The power of social networks to channel the messages and sentiment of what is still really only a small group of people (when compared to the overall UK population) is remarkable. It makes one wonder what it would be like when everyone else in the world has such a voice
  1. Unintended consequences, as a direct result of the aforementioned haste, are almost a certainty, but that’s a headache of the next elected government, which in the grand scheme of things may only be a fair price to pay for whoever gets into power next month

In any case, it might appear that once this bill becomes law, ordinary citizens and businesses will just have to get on with it, as usual. But it’s not all bad news; because not only will the new government have to firefight any fallout from this debacle, they will also have a great opportunity (or burden) to get it right by launching an education campaign in support of this law. This is necessary in order to help people understand how they can pursue a lawful existence online, without falling foul of the law and possibly facing the threat of disconnection from the matrix, *ahem* the Internet. How this can be done well will be the subject of my next blog / magazine articles, so watch this space.

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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.

The Value of Your Digital Identity – Digi Who? Digi You

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday’s Mashupevent on Digital Identity was an eye opener in terms of the amount of issues, concerns and opinions triggered by this particular topic. Never mind recent buzz phrases like Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion, it looks like Digital Identity may prove be the most important one to get right first.

As you might imagine, the idea of digital identity evokes a fair amount of existential angst / hubris / umbrage, and as such it did not take long for both speakers and audience to get caught up in a psychotherapy-like word association free-for-all, featuring such key words and phrases as: trust, privacy, values, morals, tolerance, permissions, boundaries, perception, human rights and even CRM, VRM and Social Media (ok, so it’s probably a geek psychotherapist). That said, there was clearly a fair amount of knowledge and experience in the room, which made for very stimulating and informed discussion (See #Mashupevent)

One thing that strikes me about the whole digital identity debate is that despite the remarkable amount of progress in creating, managing and using digital identity, businesses may be in danger of forgetting or ignoring the idea of people as contextual / dynamic beings (complete with ever-shifting moods, reactions and identities even). Perhaps this is because it is a particularly difficult challenge to overcome, especially with current limitations in technology, but rest assured that it will become even more important as people continue to expect more from the digital products and services that support their digital lifestyles.

Finally, the key question for me was a tweet asking: “What about those lacking an identity? There are many still without bank accounts or fixed addresses” by @bjh_gje. Answers anyone? Overall, it was a very interesting and informative session which was only let down by the usual time constraints of an evening session. I believe this is a topic definitely worth exploring further possibly in a full-day event devoted entirely to Digital Identity.

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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.

Internet Privacy, Digital Economy Bill, Copy Fright and Dirty Fights: It’s Only Business.

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It is clearly becoming a trend for major countries to start putting their foot down on just what will and won’t fly over the Internet (so to speak) in their countries. One may be forgiven for thinking that the media are only focused reporting such “interestingly” bad news. But why not, after all bad news sells better than good, and in showbiz, all publicity is good publicity anyway. Right?

Below are some examples of major recent developments that serve to highlight this state of affairs:

1. Italy vs. the Internet (via the Google Three) –  Last month, three senior Google execs were handed prison sentences by an Italian Judge for ‘violation of privacy’, as reported here on the Guardian’s website. As might be expected this incredible turn of events has raised concerns, among the global Internet community, that it threatens a fundamental principle that enables openness of the Internet. Furthermore, in a Huffington Post article, Lawrence Lessig, makes a strong case that to the Italian Parliament that Internet video services should not be governed by the exact same rules as broadcast media (e.g. TV), for the very simple and obvious reason that they are entirely different beasts. Duh!

2. Google, (Again) vs. China – Last week BBC News reported that Google will face consequences if it refuses to comply with Chinese censorship laws. In other words, either play by our rules or get out of China, the choice is yours.

3. Digital Economy Bill – This ongoing saga has created real debate among many people in the UK, as our politicians get to grips with trying to govern the Internet and make serious attempts to control its impact on the UK economy. Hmm, I wish them the best of luck, but as wiser heads have implored (including the BCS), this is not something to be rushed into law without necessary, proper and additional, nay extraordinary, due diligence.

In light of the above, there appears to be an almighty struggle brewing between major nations and the global Internet over just how their citizens may use / access the Internet, (and its myriad applications and service providers), with said citizens and service providers caught squarely in the middle. It looks like a battle between self determination and freedom of expression (with instruments like the safe harbour principle) on the one hand, versus Realpolitiks and commercial interests (possibly in the guise of social responsibility and sovereignty) on the other.

At the end, it may all just be a futile gesture , because to my mind, one key problem faced by those trying to lock down access and usage of the internet is that, as a communication channel, the Internet is fertile breeding ground for emergent information and content creation, remix and consumption practices that are hard to predict, never mind controlling it. How can anyone hope to control what is essentially unpredictable? Plus it doesn’t help that, as observed here by my fellow blogger, many people now desire to have access to the Internet as a basic human right to communicate!

Furthermore, I defy any industry to prove conclusively that the Internet, and casual piracy of digital content for that matter, is the root cause of their economic woes. For those that try, it may be tantamount to pointing out their incompetence in adapting to change, or even a cynical ploy to generate sympathy (perhaps in order to hide said incompetence). I just call it showbiz or film trickery.  But is it really all showbiz, or are certain industries and businesses really badly affected as they make out? It can be very hard to tell these days, especially as it seems that even the music industry is far from dead!

I would venture as far as to say that this not all bad news, and is in fact more like growing pains, indicative of the fact that traditional industries and nations are finally adjusting (albeit not without a fight) to the challenges of a new paradigm of business and global citizenship fostered by digital technology and the Internet. At the very least, this demands fundamental changes to much of our current ways of thinking.

PS. One final thought for the weekend – are major governments running scared at the spectre of Internet companies like Google becoming a major world power? Stranger things have been known to happen.

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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.