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Posts Tagged ‘Piracy’

Copyright, Blockchain, Technology and the State of Digital Piracy

January 15, 2017 Leave a comment
The next installment of one of my favourite conferences on copyright and technology is right around the corner, on January 24th in NYC, and as usual it promises some interesting: debate, controversy and hot-off-the-press insights into the murky world of copyright business, technology, and legislation. Plus, this year, it also features a panel on the game changing technology of blockchain and its myriad disruptive applications across entire industries, including copyright and the creative industries.

Thankfully, the inclusion of this panel session recognises the never-ending role of new and innovative technologies in shaping the evolution of Copyright. Ever since that first mass copy technology (i.e. the printing press) raised questions of rights ownership, and due recompense for works of the mind, new technologies for replicating and sharing creative content have driven the wheel of evolution in this area. Attendees will doubtless benefit from the insight and expertise of this panel of speakers as well as moderator and Program Chair, Bill Rosenblatt, who questioned (in a recent blog post), the practicality, relevance and usefulness of blockchain in a B2C context for copyright. You are in for a treat.

This is a very exciting period of wholesale digital transformation, and as I mentioned once or twice in previous articles and blog-posts, the game is only just beginning for potential applications of: blockchain, crypto currencies, smart licences and sundry trust mechanisms in the digital domain. In an age of ubiquitous content and digital access, the focus of copyright is rightfully shifting away from copying and moving towards the actual usage of digital content, which brings added complexity to an already complex and subjective topic. It is far too early to tell if blockchain can provide a comprehensive answer to this challenge.

The Copyright and Technology conference series have never failed to provide some thought-provoking insights and debates driven by expert speakers across multiple industries. In fact, I reconnected recently with a couple of previous speakers: Dominic Young and Chris Elkins, who are both still pretty active, informed and involved in the copyright and technology agenda. Dominic, ex-CEO of the UK’s Digital Catapault, is currently working on a hush hush project that will potentially transform the B2C transaction space. Chris is co-founder Muso, a digital anti-piracy organisation which has successfully secured additional funding to expand its global footprint with innovative approaches to anti-piracy. For example, if you ever wondered which countries are most active in media piracy, then look no further than Muso’s big data based state of digital piracy reports. Don’t say I never tell you anything.

In any case, I look forward to hearing attendees impressions on the Copyright and Technology 2017 conference, which I’m unable to attend / participate this timme unfortunately. In the meantime, I’ll continue to spend my spare time, or whatever brain capacity I have left, with pro-bono activities that allow me to: meet, mentor / coach and advise some amazing startups on the dynamic intersection of IP, business and technology. More on that in another post.

Fighting Piracy with Education

May 11, 2014 Leave a comment

According to a BBC news report, it seems that a deal to tackle digital piracy is about to be realised between major UK ISPs and key content and entertainment industry organisations. Given that it took several years of wrangling to get to this point, the obvious question is whether this particular deal will work to the satisfaction of all concerned?

Education versus Piracy

The report describes how the UK ISPs (i.e. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and VirginMedia) will be required to send ‘educational’ letters, or alerts, to users they believe are downloading illegal content. Among other things, the deal is predicated on the belief that increased awareness of legal alternatives will encourage such users away from illegal content acquisition, casual infringement and piracy. This voluntary alert system will be funded mainly by the content industry who in return will get monthly stats on alerts dished out by the ISPs. Overall, this deal is far removed from the more punitive “3 strikes” system originally mooted in the early days of the Digital Economy Act.

As with most cases there are 2 or more sides to the story, and below are some considerations to be taken into account before drawing your own conclusions, including:

1. Critics of this deal, i.e. presumably the content providers, will consider this too soft an approach to be effective in curbing the very real and adverse economic impact of piracy.

2. Supporters, including ISPs, will likely see this as fair compromise for securing their cooperation in tackling piracy, and a win-win for them and their customers.

3. Another perspective comprises the view of regulators and government intermediaries (aka brokers of this deal), who likely consider it a practical compromise which can always be tweaked depending on its efficacy or lack thereof.

4. There are probably many other viewpoints to be considered, but, in my opinion, the most important perspective belongs to the end-users who ultimately stand to benefit or suffer from the success or failure of this initiative, especially since:

  • there is evidence that education trumps punishment when it comes to casual content piracy – e.g. the HADOPI experience in France which has effectively evolved into an educational campaign against copyright infringement.
  • content consumers already have far too much choice over the source and format of content anyway, so punitive measures may not necessarily solve the piracy problem, if they can get content via other illegal means.
  • any perceived failure of this deal, and its ‘educational’ approach, could lend support for more draconian and punitive measures, therefore it is in the interest of consumers to see it succeed.

5. Industrial scale piracy, on the other hand must be tackled head-on, with the full weight of the law, in order to close down and discourage the real criminal enterprises that probably do far more damage to the content industry.

In any case, regardless of how you view this and other similar developments, it is always worth bearing in mind that we are only in a period of transition to a comprehensive digital existence, therefore all current challenges and opportunities are certain to change, as new technology and usage paradigms continue to drive and reveal ever more intriguing changes in consumer behaviours. This battle is far from over.

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 Multi-Everything Approach to Creative Business and Innovation

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

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:  

Five stakeholders

Figure: Five Key Stakeholder Groups*

  1. 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 
  2. 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
  3. 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 
  4. 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  
  5. 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

Publishing, Intellectual Property and Private Equity: A Tale of Three Events

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

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.”

Standing Room Only

Publishing Expo 2011: Future of Multi-Publishing

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.

IP Panel at the RSA

The RSA: IP For Innovation and Growth

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.

PE Africa

Private Equity Africa

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.

Creative Commons: Addressing the perils of re-using digital content.

February 27, 2011 2 comments

Do you still dream of owning an iPad? If so, you are one of millions of people salivating at the thought of using such a sexy device to create and consume all manner of digital content e.g. books, pictures, music and video. Indeed such devices promise exciting times for all digital content creators; and even entire industries, (e.g. news and magazine publishers), can hardly contain their excitement at the prospect of a device that just might single-handedly revive their ailing fortunes. But this is not another gushing product review, instead it is meant to highlight the challenges that this, and other such devices, will surely pose to the already embattled system of Intellectual Property or Copyright. Namely, how can you be sure that the content you create, re-use and consume on your device does not infringe another party’s copyright?

This is a burning question in the minds of many professional and non-professional creators and re-users of digital content, (e.g.: authors, bloggers, photographers, film-makers, illustrators, web-designers, as well as teachers and students); especially in light of new governmental instruments like the Digital Economy Act1. The right answer must provide, at the very least, a clear and simple method by which anyone can legally create, distribute, use and remix digital content without fear of inadvertent copyright infringement. This article examines one such method, which is increasingly being used by many creative people to get around this difficult issue, and it’s called the Creative Commons.

What Is The Creative Commons?

According to their website2, the Creative Commons (or CC) is a non-profit organisation devoted to increasing the amount of creative works that are free and legal to: share, use, re-purpose and remix by the general public (aka “The Commons”). The CC was established in 2001 by an eight strong group of experts in such relevant fields as cyber law, Intellectual Property (IP), computing and education. The first version of CC Licences were released in 2002, and since then over 130 million works have been licensed under this, and subsequent versions (it’s currently at version 3.0). Furthermore, CC licenses have now been ported to over 50 countries or jurisdictions internationally, with more coming onboard every year.

How Do CC Licenses Work?

The Creative Commons provides free, legal tools that enable content creators to grant: clear, simple and more liberal copyright-based permissions for the use of their works. It operates alongside existing copyright laws, but instead of the default copyright position of “all rights reserved”, CC allows content creators to specify a more flexible proposition with only “some rights reserved”. This is achieved via a multi-step gradient of pre-bundled permissions which bridge the gap between binary positions of copyright (i.e. all rights reserved) and the public domain (i.e. no rights reserved).

There are six commonly used types of CC licenses, which are shown, in order of increasing restrictiveness, as follows:

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons Licenses

Figure 1: Creative Commons. Source of CC License Symbol / Images3: http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/

All CC licenses are represented in three levels, which are easily accessible for: computers (i.e.  Machine-readable digital code, or metadata); lawyers (i.e. the “Legal Code”); and ordinary people (i.e. the Commons Deed).

What are the Limitations and Pitfalls of Using CC Licenses?

CC is by no means perfect for every situation, especially since it doesn’t cover every single type of rights and privileges related to content. For example, CC licenses do not affect the rights of content creators or consumers in areas like: Fair Use or Fair Dealing, Moral Rights and / or Privacy. The latter aspect of Privacy has been in the spotlight on a few occasions, most memorable of which involved a minor whose image was used in an advertising campaign without her knowledge or permission4, and which ultimately led to charges of violation of her privacy, (notwithstanding the fact that the photograph in question had been posted on Flickr.com under a CC-By-Attribution license!)

Furthermore, the global scope of CC and the Internet only adds to the complexity and geo-political implications of such allegations. For example, the minor and photographer in the above case were both based in the USA, but the ad campaign took place in far away Australia. In light of this and other similar cases, Maria Kessler5, President of the Picture Archive Council of America, advises caution in all uses of digital images, even those under CC license, due to the many subtleties / unintended consequences of digital image rights and their usage.

In Conclusion

The rise in digital content, fuelled by ubiquity and relative ease of digital content creation, remix and distribution emphasises the urgent need for a more flexible approach to usage rights and permissions under copyright. This need is fulfilled to a large degree by the Creative Commons system described above, in spite of the mind-numbing complexity and subtlety of copyright (i.e. the various rights / privileges / restrictions that are attributable to content and their authors). In summary, the key messages to take away include:

  1. CC is probably the best thing we currently have to enable the legal use / reuse of digital content that would otherwise be legally inaccessible to users under full copyright. This is because CC simplifies and facilitates content use / reuse / sharing for  the benefit of all (and not just for commercial stakeholders or content rights owners)
  2. The widespread popularity and adoption of CC clearly points the way to how we might evolve, or remix, the global copyright system into something that can better cope with the relentless relentless pace of change driving the digital economy during this crucial transition period in human cultural evolution
  3. Finally, as with most other things, CC is not a silver bullet. The subtleties of copyright versus individual rights are a minefield, even for the best of legal experts; therefore extreme caution is highly recommended when considering the use of CC licensed works in a commercial way.

Please Note: This article has been submitted and accepted for publication in a forthcoming edition of ITNow Magazine

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References:

  1. The Creative Commons website can be found at http://www.creativecommons.org and the UK version is at: http://www.creativecommons.org.uk. More information on other jurisdictions can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/international
  2. Digital Economy Act – More on the debate over this bill can be found on the BCS DRM blog, including comments, at: http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conBlogPost.1606
  3. Creative Commons Images: The CC license buttons and graphics remain the property and trademark of the Creative Commons. More information on their use and reuse can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/policies
  4. More information on this lawsuit against Virgin Mobile and the Creative Commons can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/7680
  5. Conversation with Maria Kessler who is also Senior Vice President of Image Rights (http://www.imagerights.com), an Image monitoring services company.


Augmented Reality: You Must Be Seeing Things!

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Augmented Reality (aka AR), looks increasingly set to play a major role in shaping the future of mobile computing, commerce, education and advertising. It isn’t far wrong to think of this as “electronic data mist” laid over mundane physical reality, but my main concern, as ever, is what happens when Intellectual Property Rights get thrown into the mix?

Specifically, who has the right to display what content over which physical area? Will it get to a point of digital saturation, i.e. the prospect of infinite virtual content over finite physical space? Also, how do you filter out the digital noise? I’m sure each of these questions presents immense opportunities for some digital entrepreneurs to make a killing over the next few years, i.e. if they’re not already doing so.

More to the point, I saw some fledgling offerings, precursors to a future AR industry that promises a wealth of content and applications, at last month’s BCS event on AR which featured two excellent speakers (a UCL professor, and the prominent blogger/founder of augmentedplanet.com) on the topic. Suffice it to say that they presented a feast of possibilities and opportunities for any far-sighted entrepreneur or venture capitalist to grab a stake in this potentially explosive space.

However, as with most things concerned with digital content versus physical reality, there is still a lack of clarity on governance, or rules-of-engagement, for when “digital meets physical” (sic). In light of the numerous battles fought by the music, film and publishing industries over digital content misuse or piracy, it is clear that the opportunities presented by emergent capabilities like AR will also bring its own unique challenges e.g.: privacy, limitations-in-technology, and the prospect of falling down an open manhole, or bumping into a lamp-post as your reality becomes increasingly over-augmented (for more info, you can read this excellent post about “the case against Augmented Reality”)

In spite of the above, the prospect of augmented reality applications becoming more common-place and making a real impact in the fields of medicine, education and commerce is indeed very exciting. I sincerely hope that AR will grow and flourish, overcoming the challenges that face it, in order to become an indispensible tool for this and future generations.