If you're a regular reader of my blog, I owe you a big apology for my 'radio silence' of the last couple of months. My excuse? Head down and working hard on the 'legals' on a terrific digital media project, about which more anon.
I managed to surface this week at the London Book Fair. My colleague Mailin Bala and I gave a presentation yesterday on 'Digital Publishing: new business models, new legal issues' which you can download here. Judging by the size of the audience, the future is definitely here. The room was packed.
The day before, I went to the Annual Charles Clark Memorial Lecture, given by Francis Gurry, the UN's Director General for the World Intellectual Property Organisation who spoke on 'Copyright in the Digital Age: balancing publisher and creator income with access for the public good'.
Dr. Gurry gave a great 'big picture' view of the fundamental issues we still haven't solved, some 15 years + after the emergence of the Web from the world of academia. I liked the way he re-framed the debate about piracy, illegal 'P2P' distribution and download of copyright materials. The fundamental question to ask is this: how are we going to finance the production of cultural goods and services in the 21st century?
Many of my posts have pointed to the answer as copyright, powered by 21st century machine-readable permission-based rights managment; a system which hides copyright complexity from the user, respects legal exceptions to copyright and which enable works to be searched, accessed and, where applicable, paid for. As Judge Denny Chin put it in his recent, and admirably lucid, decision to reject the Amended Google Settlement: "..many of the concerns raised in the objections [to the settlement] would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an "opt-out" settlement to an "opt-in" settlement."
But back to Dr Gurry and the challenge - the digital challenge -of the Internet an digital technologies: how we can ensure that content is available on the most widespread basis to the community whilst enabling creators to lead a dignified economic existence?
He put forward three principles which should form the basis for developing a successful policy response to this challenge:
- Neutrality to technology and business models which are developed over time.
- A policy response which is comprehensive and coherent, grounded in the reality that there is no single solution, but one combining legal, infrastucture, new business models etc.
- Simplifying the workings of copyright. (I like to think in terms of hiding the complexity of copyright through use of technology, clear symbols etc.).
A the top of the legal strand of this policy response he saw 4 issues which need a coordinated response: how to deal with illegal P2P copying and downloading; intermediaries' liability, orphan works and the tension between territoriality and the global nature of the Internet.
The unlikely duo of Presidents Sarkozy and Medvedev have both apparently said that the issue of copyright in th digital environment should be on the G20 Agenda. Let's hope so because Dr Gurry is right - we needed a coordinated and global response.
So back to the fundamental question about how are we going to finance the production of cultural goods and services in the 21st century? Do we really think the answer is to be found in the Pirate Party's suggestion that the term of copyright for commercial exploitation should be reduced to 5 years, and that non commercial use should be allowed for free from day 1? I don't think so. But we need to engage in this debate in order to arrive at a new 'digital balance'.
Have a good week.