OECD Calibrates Role In Fast-Changing Internet Society15/10/2007 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.OTTAWA – The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris-based club of 30 of the world’s largest economies, is moving fast to keep up with the newest trend on the Internet: user-generated content. Referred to generally as ‘Web 2.0’, this trend includes collaboratively developed websites such as Wikipedia and YouTube, social networking platforms such as Facebook and MySpace, and social news aggregators such as Digg and Reddit.The OECD locked horns with the topic at its 3 October conference, Participative Web: Strategies and Policies for the Future, held in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.The event was followed by closed meetings of the OECD aimed at developing a work plan for the coming year before a ministerial-level meeting on the future of the Internet economy on 17-18 June 2008 in Seoul, South Korea.Conference speakers – including senior government officials and representatives from international organisations, industry, non-governmental organisations and media – generally agreed that the Internet landscape is rapidly changing and affecting all sectors of society. They predicted governments would need to be responsive to changes, but could not predict what those changes would look like.“I don’t think anyone can leave here today … without a sense of amazement about the profound changes that are underway in the economy and society, brought about by the participative web,” Richard Simpson, chair of the OECD information, computer and communications policy committee and director general of electronic commerce for Industry Canada. He added: “We are almost reinventing our civic culture. The changes in associational and political life are astounding.”But while everyone agreed on the transformative nature of the user-created wave, there appeared to be little agreement on how to address some of the complex issues that are arising as a result of it. These include business and legal concerns such as intellectual property rights, possible new licensing schemes, protecting Internet service providers from liability, and competition. They also include regulatory concerns such as maintaining the neutrality of networks, ensuring interoperability and standards, maintaining privacy and online identities, communicating across cultural and legal differences, and setting degrees of government involvement.These are likely to be among the issues on the agenda of the OECD meeting in Korea, which will target creativity, confidence and convergence, according to sources.Many of these issues were identified by Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, who summed up the meeting. He said panels had addressed how corporations are using new technologies innovatively and new companies being created, how education and citizen empowerment are being affected, and how networks are shifting. A role for governments and the OECD seemed to emerge on types of access, privacy and trust, and standard-setting. But Geist said there was not clear consensus on intellectual property, liability, and network neutrality.The following is some highlights from the Ottawa meeting.Richard Hawkins, a professor at the University of Calgary, told Intellectual Property Watch that at least two “bombshell” ideas emerged from the conference. One was a possible return to collective societies updated for the participative Web 2.0, and the other the possibility of moving the Internet to public infrastructure, like roads. “These ideas are not necessarily new,” he said. “[But] it may be that some of the older solutions are more viable than people thought they were.”The numbers for the “participative Web” are staggering. Jonathan Taplin of the University of Southern California said in August the total number of videos viewed online was 9.76 billion – or 24 billion minutes. YouTube alone had 2.3 billion individual videos viewed, he said. Yahoo and social networking forum MySpace average 300 to 200 million videos viewed, he said, adding that growth in these areas is some 2 to 3 percent per month. YouTube numbers far outstrip average cable television viewing, he said, and overall, investment in Web 2.0 technologies is picking up.Governments are questioning how to monitor and regulate this newest public space. Kiyoshi Mori, vice-minister for policy coordination at Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, presented statistics showing that Japan’s rapid expansion of broadband services through fibre optics has been matched with a rapid rise in consumption of bandwidth for services relating to the participative Web, especially peer-to-peer (P2P) use. Problem areas for the government include: traffic congestion, the need to build a legislative scheme that accounts for the convergence of telecommunications and content creation, and legal distribution of information (for instance, intellectual property rights and privacy concerns). The government is undertaking a joint study with industry to find the best way to disperse traffic, he said.Sangwon Ko, vice-chair of the OECD Working Party on the Information Economy and executive director of the division of information industry research at the Korea Information Society Development Institute, said the Korean government is responding to the participative Web through implementation of industrial and regulatory policies. The industrial policy involves encouraging research and development, innovation in content, software and hardware, as well as promoting human resources and venture capital for content. Korea also is building infrastructure, which should address neutrality issues on the Internet, and is addressing privacy and copyright infringement and other content concerns. Korea has the world’s highest per capita broadband penetration.Anne Bucher, head of unit for the European Commission Information Society and Media directorate general, said the Commission is still formulating an approach to the participative Web, which she said policymakers did not fully anticipate. She cautioned governments not to rush into legislation and policy changes to address such “disruptive trends” before better understanding the long-term implications.Bucher said online social networking is governed by self-regulation fairly adequately at this point. But she raised warnings about some areas such as IP rights, noting for example that the online community SecondLife has begun issuing US-oriented copyrights to creators that may not be enforceable outside the United States. A need to help protect users’ rights may emerge as well, she said.On competition and the participative Web, Bucher said the first test may have arrived in the notification to the European Commission of a proposed takeover of DoubleClick by Google. She also said that the participative Web has not extended significantly to professional purposes, and said that closed, or “walled garden” communities are the basis for innovation on the new Web (such as Apple’s iTunes store, or Facebook). Others in the conference highlighted the importance of open standards and open source approaches to information.The social nature of content generation raises questions about who owns what, and how far ownership extends. Martin Senftleben, an intellectual property law professor at the Free University of Amsterdam, described how the participative Web has renewed the Internet question of balance between the free flow of information and the protection of rights over content. Senftleben said content providers are focused on rights to databases and to trademarks. Users, meanwhile, who are transforming existing content, or adding value to it, would normally be exempted from copyright restrictions. Exceptions exist for uses such as libraries and press, but users may be discouraged from activities out of fear of being accused of infringement, he and other speakers said.Bucher said questions remain as to the extent of rights one has over their own creation online, which jurisdiction applies, and on whether and how to continue to use digital rights management to control content. Senftleben also cited questions about ownership, generally handled under end-user licence agreements for each site. Bucher said government’s role can be in educating users about their rights. But on control over copyrighted material, Gasser asserted, “I believe DRM and technological protection issues are dead. It just failed as a response to piracy.”Taplin also said that DRMs are not working and proposed that a collective licensing agreement be developed “so that the owners of content and the artists that created it will get paid.” Because, he said, “to believe that there is some wonderful scheme that a hacker in Finland or Russia is not going to break within 24 hours of its release is, I think, an illusion.”Others highlighted the social implications beyond the capacity of governments. Urs Gasser, director of the Research Centre for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen and a fellow at the Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet and Society, described a project analysing children born into the digital age. These so-called “digital natives” are more participatory online – meaning that their involvement with the user-generative Web goes beyond intellectual property rights and begins to change notions of identity, security and privacy, creativity and freedom of expression, and the credibility of information, he said. Gasser described potential roles for government in each area, such as protecting privacy, ensuring limitations and exceptions to copyright, and ensuring interoperability of platforms.Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and a civil society representative to the OECD, said civil society groups would seek governments to focus on consumer protection, broadband deployment, competition, privacy and security and respect for different cultures.Keith Besgrove, chair of the OECD Working Party on Information Security and Privacy and first assistant secretary in the communications department at Australia’s Information Technology and the Arts agency, said policymakers “should not respond to rapidly changing ephemera,” but rather focus on more fundamental changes on economy and society. He acknowledged that it is not always apparent which is which, but suggested first asking the question, “Do we think this is actually going to make a significant difference or is this just, you know, the latest buzzword?”Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, organiser of the event for the OECD, said, “The Internet and its inherent interactive capabilities are obviously not new. Yet – similar to 10 years ago at the first OECD Ministerial on E-Commerce – we feel that from a policy-makers’ perspective the participative Web introduces so many new market and potentially regulatory components that policy thinking on many items will need to start from afresh.” William New may be reached at email@example.com.Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Related"OECD Calibrates Role In Fast-Changing Internet Society" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.