Antonis Patrikios, (Director at FieldFisher), spoke about the legal aspects of IoT and privacy, as well as the need to ensure that IoT works for the benefit of people. He described IoT as the “Internet of Trust” because that is what will be needed to enhance user experience and address key legal challenges such as user privacy and the fact that “IoT is global, but the law is not”.
Finally, the University College London (UCL) provided a glimpse of real IoT projects developed by UCL post graduate students using Microsoft technology. They described realistic usage scenarios and demonstrated the ability to organise groups of Things, controlled via a “Captain” device, to support multiple uses of the same Things (or groups thereof). E.g. the same Captain device in a hospital room full of Things could service the use cases of multiple stakeholders, including the: doctor, patient, family members, building security and hospital administrators.
In the end, all speakers seemed to agree that the combination of IoT and Big Data will be THE game changer in the next wave of computing. There was a certain buzz in the air, as attendees and speakers discussed the possibilities and challenges posed by IoT. One show of hands survey indicated that attendees thought the Internet of Things was at least as significant as, if not more so than, the advent of the original Internet. It was also felt that user education, (e.g. by the IoT service providers, “Thing makers” and their collaborators), would be key to the success and acceptance of IoT by the general public – people are genuinely concerned about their privacy, personal safety and security.
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.
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.
Clearly, 21st century business is a crazy mixed-up world of multi-platform, multi-channel, multi-format, multi-device and multi-revenue (oh, and don’t forget mash-up) business models. Most brands, businesses and individuals must learn to adapt, compete, survive and perhaps even excel, in this challenging environment, but the key question is how best to go about it?
Once upon a time, it was the admirable thing to be able to “do one thing, and do it well”, however, in these crazy mixed up times, it seems like anyone and her uncle’s dog are attempting to do multiple things and, in some cases, they seem to do them very well indeed. So how can an ordinary, garden variety, business or individual even hope to compete in such a world? The answer, incredible as it sounds, is to be able to do one thing well, but that one thing is nothing less than the ability to handle change – a whole lot of change. Ok, so this isn’t a lightning flash of brilliance or originality, after all evolution has shown that highly adaptable generalists, such as omnivorous mammals, are more likely to succeed than their single purpose, built-for-speed and all things bling, counterparts.
For a business or individual to compete, survive and excel these days, it must have inbuilt, DNA level, capability to change. Nowhere is this more true and important than in the creative / knowledge industries of the digital age. If I had a five year Private Equity fund to invest as I saw fit, my one yardstick for judging a proposition would be based on this one quality (i.e. how change-ready is the individual, start-up or established business) in everything from business model to individual outlook. Basically, I propose using a stakeholder prism to analyse the change-readiness of the proposition from the point of view of five key stakeholder groups. So how might this work for example with new video, music or publishing venture?
First of all, we’ll need a standard way to establish the overall clarity of vision for that proposition, and for this, I’d suggest using the excellent Business Model Canvas (as described in the book Business Model Generation), to provide comprehensive articulation of the business model / proposition in no more than a single poster. This is a near perfect template for most circumstances, and the book provides model patterns for various types of businesses (you can also see the relevance to Enterprise Architecture in a recent CTO Blog post by Andy Mulholland).
Having established completeness and clarity of vision, we can then proceed to analyse the change-readiness of the proposition from five key perspectives (i.e. from the creator, technology, commercial, governance and customer stakeholder groups), loosely based on current and emerging trends affecting the creative industries:
- Content creators – In a multi-everything world, creative artistes must also be multi-talented. It is no longer enough to just sing for your supper – look what this author has resorted to doing. The content creators in the proposition must be capable of applying their creativity to the entire lifecycle
- Technology providers – This current situation (and this blog post) is a direct result of disruption caused by Internet and mobile technologies, which enable the multi-everything paradigm of multi-format / multi-channel / multi-platform offerings and experiences so capably delivered by devices such as the iPad etc. The proposition must be able to take advantage of these enablers throughout the entire content lifecycle
- The commercial stakeholders – The Creative industries are starting to embrace the multi-everything philosophy, and to paraphrase one speaker at a recent publishing event, the future of multi-publishing is one-third physical, one-third digital, and one-third live events. The commercial model in the proposition needs to be flexible enough to handle all three if necessary
- Legislative and governance stakeholders – The recent spate of IP Reviewsare testament to the fact that a creaking Intellectual Property (IP) system is woefully inadequate to handle the multi-complex threats and opportunities on offer today. The proposition must show how it aims to address challenges presented by a far-too-slowly evolving IP environment
- Customers / end users – Finally, this group of stakeholders encompass all others, and as it is their judgement that really matters to any business, the prime goal of any business venture must be deliver value as early as possible to this group. The ultimate change-readiness test is to demonstrate how the proposition can fail fast and often without losing its hold on the customer / end-user.
Any business proposition that can provide satisfactory answers to the above tests is bound to do well, even without support and investment from my mythical PE fund. However, there are still a couple of very tough but related issues that compound an already perilous creative business environment i.e.:
- Piracy – and I mean real industrial piracy, (not the “we-have-an-outdated-business-model-so-let’s-just-sue-the-people-formerly-known-as-customers” variety), needs to be addressed at a global level. A recent UK Government report put the cost of cyber crime at £27bn, (of which some £9bn was attributed to IP theft), in the UK alone.
- Copyright – and all other Intellectual Property systems must evolve to something better able to handle digital complexity. In other words, we must start to simplify and facilitate the whole end-to-end process of IP Rights. Several promising events / debates have and will continue to take place until a workable solution can be found – e.g. the World Copyright Summit and Berklee College / Midem’s Rethink Musicevent each provide an exemplary forum for such worthwhile discourse.
- Territoriality – is fast becoming an outmoded concept in a globally connected mobile digital world. Creative businesses are increasingly looking to reduce the headache caused by historical remnants of territorial boundaries in a global digital environment.
To conclude, in a multi-everything world, the best approach to creative business innovation is to be fast, flexible and adaptable to change, but also keeping in mind the global reach of digital and mobile technology. It is no different than the business of evolution, except that it is probably happening right this minute on a device near you.
*Image Source: Adapted from The World Beyond Digital Rights Management, BCS 2007
All the hype surrounding Cloud computing, coupled with the mandatory cautionary tales around security and control, or the lack thereof, makes it is easy to overlook a small but significant component of the cloud proposition i.e.: Who owns what Intellectual Property in the Cloud?
If we take as an example, a simple cloud-based application or service, (i.e. one that is developed, hosted and operated in the Cloud), which enable users to create mash-ups of information and content derived from other cloud services and web applications, and which may be physically located in various other parts of the world (remember this is Cloud we’re talking about), who should be held responsible for any infringement of confidentiality or Intellectual Property such as: copyright, trade secrets, designs or patents, in such an environment?
The elephant-in-the-room answer to that question is how to go about establishing the correct chain or web of responsibility – Ergo:
- Is it the cloud service provider, (with their hermetically sealed and caveated contracts)?
- Is it the cloud-based service operator (again with their watertight EULAs)?
- is it, as often tends to be the case in these things, the hapless end-user / consumer who in effect has directly infringed someone’s IP by using that service in the first place (i.e. assuming they did not intend to infringe anything at all)?
- Or is it all of the above?
The above scenario clearly speaks to the heart of the matter with IP in the Cloud; i.e. there is an alarming lack of transparency with respect to data, information, content and their different usage and ownership models in the Cloud context. Furthermore, when one adds in other constraints (e.g. annoyingly out-of-step, geo-political territorial restrictions on mobility) to such innovative Cloud based services as Amazon’s Cloud Drive , one could easily end up with a truly formidable challenge that defies any simple or simplistic resolution scenarios.
An army of lawyers, (even ones improbably well versed in computer technology and programming), could not hope to decipher such puzzles in a month of Sundays. So where does that leave us? Luckily nowhere too nasty yet, as sparse incidents of cloud related IP infringement cases can attest. Fortunately, the seeds of potential solutions may be found in the foresight of initiatives like Free and Open Source Software, with their liberal licenses, or the Creative Commons which provide appropriate interfaces for human, machine and the legal systems to use and re-use digital content legally (See my separate blog article for more information about the Creative Commons).
In conclusion, at this point in time a lot of attention is being paid to such cloudy issues as: Cloud security, data access and controls, as well as service assurance and business continuity; but once these are resolved and have become Business-as-Usual, the lack of clarity around IP in the Cloud may surface to negative effect. The time is right for all stakeholders (i.e.: Cloud service providers and operators; business and consumer end-users; Policy makers) and their trusted advisers to start thinking about addressing and influencing the potential outcome of a major IP meltdown in the Cloud.
It’s not often one gets an opportunity to attend three compelling events in one evening, but as luck would have it, the stars were aligned and I managed to do just that in a mad scramble from one venue to the next. Such are the benefits of living and working in a great city like London, but less so were the thorny issues under debate at each of the three events.
It took a minute to digest and process various messages from these events, but as promised / tweeted, below are three key points, take-away or opinions:
1. Publishers must embrace multi-platform models as business-as-usual (Publishing Expo 2011)
It was standing room only at the Multi-Publishing & Digital Strategies Theatre in a packed final session on “the future of multi-platform publishing”. According to one of the speakers, “the bleeding edge of multi-publishing model is one third print, one third digital, and one third live events.”
My Comment – Never mind multi-platform, it sounds more like a multi-model approach will be necessary for the entire creative industry, in my opinion.
2. But how do you value Intellectual Property? (IP For Innovation And Growth)
This has to be one of the thorniest questions for IP, because consistent and intelligent valuation of IP is at best confusing, or non-existent. IP is really just an economic mechanism, so a fundamental attribute should be the ability to establish an agreed value for the property in question, but this presents a severe problem because current valuation are highly subjective and always dependent on the buyer or seller’s points-of-view. Throw in the ability to effortlessly copy and distribute works via digital technology, and you’ll get the somewhat muddy picture.
My Comment – There is a clear opportunity here to create a dynamic and transparent IP valuation model or approach, which can produce the right valuation for IP, based on the buyer / seller relationship and context
3. And does a cash economy make IP any less relevant? (Private Equity Africa)
Apparently, it’s all about cash in Africa which leads me to wonder if and how global IP will work in a cash economy. This event does not immediately appear to have much in common with the others on IP or the creative industry, and even one of the speakers afterwards, said he considered Intellectual Property in Africa to be, and I quote, “nothing more than intellectual masturbation”. However, when you think of the thriving industry and market for music and filmed entertainment (e.g. Nigeria’s Nollywood), it is easy to see how IP can provide an important boost to developing economies. Therefore, even if there is little point in enforcing IP Rights locally, all developing economies must be interested and involved in any discussion relating to global IP rights and digital distribution / piracy.
My Comment – when it comes to content and IP, it is a level playing field as all jurisdictions and stakeholders struggle with the impact of digital technology
Overall, one clear trend I can see emerging from the above is that such tough questions / issues will need even tougher answers and resolutions to overcome. For example, they may well be pointing to the same underlying problem – i.e. a flawed and inflexible concept of economic value – but perhaps that is rightly the subject of another blog and blogger.
No. Not that “Windows”, (just couldn’t resist the sensationalist headline). Instead this refers to ongoing debate about the questionable relevance of release windows in the context of digital entertainment. Basically, does it still make sense to employ multiple release windows when nowadays almost anyone can get illegal copies of films and music, sometimes even before the official release date?
This is not in support of piracy, in any way shape or form, but it does beg the question that illegal file-sharing may be addressing a demand that is left unfulfilled by the entertainment industry, i.e. “unfettered, and inexpensive access to any content, on any device, at any time and in any location that the legally purchasing customer wishes to enjoy it”.
And just what is so difficult about that you might ask, but industry people will undoubtedly try to reassure you, that is exactly what they would like to see too, if not for those pesky pirates ( …and their Pirate Bays, P2P filesharing, and expectations of free online content by those leeching Freetards and other “Long tailed” miscreants, grumble, grumble & grumble ). I suspect the underlying problem to be related to release window mechanism and the creation of artificial scarcity in order to generate / stimulate demand and fat-head (as opposed to long tail) revenues for each release window cycle.
In a creative industry that is accustomed to selling the same content over and over to its customers, the release window mechanism has been a great way to maximize return-on-investment for each successful title. However, with digital media (i.e. perfect copies), and broadband Internet (i.e. near immediate global distribution), this release windows model has struggled with the insatiable demand and expectations of instant gratification from a consuming public that has tasted the cornucopia of ‘free’ content online. This surely indicates that time has come to reconsider these release mechanisms particularly for digital content (e.g. music, films, books etc).
A recent Forrester report and blog post about music release strategies, has proposed a new windowing model which takes into account the growing importance of “free” and feels-like-free versions of works; but even this model does not go far enough in my opinion, because ultimately, any lag creates an opportunity for further content leakage. Perhaps the best solution would be to do away with any form of release windows and other artificial delays, which only create more demand / opportunities for leaked content, thus allowing the full focus of anti-piracy measures to remain solely on mechanisms of illegal content distribution, after the fact.