Copyright Infrastructure In The Digital Age: Raising Awareness At WIPOPublished on 19 October 2011 @ 10:50 pm
By Rachel Marusak Hermann for Intellectual Property Watch
A global meeting entitled “Enabling Creativity in the Digital Environment: Copyright Documentation and Infrastructure” was held recently at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Gathering representatives of governments, business leaders, academics, and other stakeholders, the conference was organised in the framework of the Development Agenda Thematic Project on Intellectual Property and the Public Domain.
The 13-14 October conference programme is available here.
During his welcome address, Trevor Clarke, WIPO assistant director general with responsibility for copyright, explained that the two-day conference was convened to raise awareness of member states of the important role that copyright infrastructure can play in development, especially in the digital environment. “Very often the same infrastructure and documentation that facilitates the exercise of copyright and related rights … can help the general public to delimit the public domain,” he said.
With topics ranging from public registration and legal deposit systems to balanced and effective dissemination of creativity over the internet, the conference covered a lot of ground. Dr. Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, boiled down the meeting’s broad scope with a simple phrase during his keynote address: “Inventing the future is what this conference is all about.”
In the context of the speed of development and change in the digital era, he said that there is an urgent need to promote works in the public domain and access to knowledge, to rethink the law and what is copyrightable, to recognise fair use for non-commercial exploitation, and to nurture artistic and creative development.
The Business of Copyright Infrastructure Online
Bringing together copyright experts, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, the panel session on “Copyright Infrastructure for Business Models Online” covered many issues related to copyright in a digital world which provoked intense reactions from audience members and a lively debate.
“Copyright management is often quite a challenging, complicated endeavour, but copyright licensing shouldn’t be for users,” said Victoriano Colodrón, the executive director of RightsDirect, a European subsidiary of the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). “It should be an easy process for content users.”
Colodrón illustrated his key message with three examples of successful online business models used by CCC to provide flexible copyright licensing solutions to multinational corporations. One of these models, RightsLink, used by publishing heavyweights such as the New York Times, Elsevier and Springer, places the licensing mechanism where the content is and where the content consumption takes place, allowing publishers to licence content on their websites.
In the same session, Ralph Simon, CEO of Mobilium International, urged IP leaders to take into account the importance of mobile and smartphone use in the development of copyright infrastructure. He said that there will be just 360 million sales of PCs in 2011 compared to 1 billion mobile phone sales, emphasising that mobile growth is especially strong in African countries. “One of the key objectives and, I believe, imperatives of WIPO is it would be very important for us to try to gather in all of the TELCOs [telecommunication companies], handset makers, TELCO infrastructure providers because we need that constituency to help us with the process of copyright registration and copyright attribution…. And to help us to protect the creative rights of copyright creators.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Chief Technology Officer, Mitch Singer, came to the table with UltraViolet, an internet movie platform launched in the United States on 11 October. Singer describes the concept as “Blu-ray meets the Cloud,” as the platform provides the rights of a film purchased by a user so they can view the video on other devices and share it with family members. Backed by some of the biggest movie studios, UltraViolet is being hailed as a solution to the stagnation of digital movie distribution. It will soon be available in Canada and progressively in Europe.
Panellist Jun Wu, chief executive director of R2G, China’s first centralised music distribution platform, evoked some of the challenges in today’s digital music environment and some solutions that seemed to hit a nerve with some conference participants. He argued that today, in the online digital music world, there is a huge imbalance between total revenue generated versus benefit reaped by content providers. He provided a figure to illustrate his point. In 2010, $2.7 billion US dollars of revenue in digital music consumption was generated in China. Of this, the music industry was only able to capture $40 million US dollars. He explained that that this gap is in part due to the lack of infrastructure to support and define copyright in a digital environment.
“In the internet world,” he said, “we should be able to support multiple, different business models, however, we need to have an infrastructure to facilitate that. And currently today there is no such infrastructure.”
In terms of what such an infrastructure would look like, Wu explained, “Through a unified registration process, copyright will have a very clear definition in the future. The definition should have a more direct association with the commercial value of that product. This means that even though the user-generated content might inherently have its own copyright, it is fundamentally different from a commercial copyright. Copyright should be very definable and it should not take 29 degrees to define what is a copyright.”
The Future of Copyright in a Digital World
During the question and answer period of this session, Clarke came back to this point asking for further explanation on eventual new ways of looking at copyright. Wu responded, saying that from a Chinese perspective, it is impossible to monetise copyright in the current system and called for a simplification of copyright to improve commercialisation.
This suggestion provoked strong reactions from audience members. Jörg Evers, a classical composer and chairman of GEMA, one of the world’s largest societies of authors for works of music, responded by saying that such monetising difficulties were due to “a lack of proper legislation in China, because in Europe it’s very easy for an author to prove that he has written his work or written his music, so there is a lack of a proper protection of author’s rights.” Ndèye Abibatou Youm Diabe Siby, director general of the ministry of culture and communication of the Senegalese Copyright Office, said that although there are new economic realities, she found the suggestion to review the definition of copyright unnecessary and worrisome as it could undermine the work which has been done in terms of the protection of authors’ rights.
In an interview following the session, Wu clarified his remarks, saying, “what I am suggesting is how we can provide an infrastructure so that part of what we understand as copyright today can be better monetised in the future in a digital world.”
Access to Knowledge Issues
During the session covering “Infrastructure Enabling Access to Knowledge” a number of topics were covered including preservation of creative material in the digital environment, infrastructure for beneficiaries of limitations, public domain databases, and orphan works.
Dr. Silke von Lewinski, department head of international law at the Max-Planck Institute for Intellectual Property in Munich and author of “Indigenous Heritage and Intellectual Property: Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore”, spoke about the possibilities and challenges related to protecting traditional knowledge (TK) and whether or not there should be registries or databases of traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). Among the challenges that she mentioned was that many indigenous peoples object to the idea of separating a TCE from its larger context (e.g., an event, a ceremony, a place) and do not agree with the idea of trying to codify them in a database. She also cautioned that creativity and access to knowledge are western values that indigenous peoples do not necessarily share in the same way.
Maria Pallante, register of copyrights and director of the US Copyright Office, spoke about the progress that Washington has made developing orphan works legislation. The legislation would allow good-faith users of copyrighted content to move forward in cases where they wish to license a use but cannot locate the copyright owner after a diligent search. Although the House of Representatives did not pass the 2008 Orphan Works bill, Pallante said that “it was close” and that the legislation would be introduced again.
Rachel Marusak Hermann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.