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).
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.
I was kindly invited to attend a ‘narrow table’ discussion session about the key challenges facing innovation and startups when dealing with a copyright system that is clearly not fit-for-purpose in an increasingly digital world.
This session focused on teasing out the real needs (and supporting evidence thereof) for a Digital Copyright Exchange, as recommended in the Hargreaves report, which would help to address key challenges facing UK innovation and entrepreneurship in the world of digital. This is part of the diagnostic phase of an independent feasibility study led by Richard Hooper.
Attendees included entrepreneurs and start-ups (in music and other digital media) as well as participants from the publishing, legal, academic, public sector, and consulting industries. Highlights from the discussions include:
- Academic publishing – e.g. universities get double-charged for publishing academic works; i.e. for researching the content, which is provided free to the publisher, and again for the published work
- Costly clearance – e.g. according to one attendee, the British Library’s Sound Archives proportionally spent the largest amount of time negotiating / clearing rights for the materials, than on creating archive itself.
- Orphan works – DCE could provide a useful mechanism for managing orphan works.
- Small / Medium Scale Enterprises – SMEs and startups experience the most difficulty with licensing, especially as they lack the resources and money to go through the hoops in negotiating with rights owners. E.g. the lack of a clear and comprehensive licensing system hampers start-ups in establishing their business models (this is particularly acute with music streaming services)
- Price versus value – Collecting societies may not have the right pricing models for music content. E.g. On-demand streams are considered more expensive than scheduled streams or download.
- Physical versus digital copyright – The old world approach of counting instances of works for remuneration does not translate well for digital copyright and new usage scenarios
- Rights owners are scared – they don’t wish to make the wrong decision and risk cannibalising their existing business
- Software Licensing – The DCE should also extend to include software and software licensing
- Navigation – This is a cross industry issue with copyright. A single platform approach to cover all licensing needs would be great as this would provide a single point of reference for information and guidance for users
- Government copyright – It was suggested that government owned IP (e.g. ordnance survey data, census, land or electoral register data) should be covered by the DCE
- Social Media Data – Increasing use of social media data streams for powering new applications makes it a crucial element for future services which will need addressing, sooner or later, perhaps in the DCE.
The above are only a few of the sentiments expressed on the day, and attendees were encouraged to send in their responses to the call for evidence as soon as possible.
Overall, this was a very informative session which seems to confirm something I’ve often stated, which is that the key role of any new digital copyright mechanism should be to simplify and facilitate the use of copyright material within and outside the digital environment. If the Digital Copyright Exchange had those as key principles, it would go a long way to ensuring successful outcomes and delivery of the promised benefit of over £2 Billion to the UK economy.