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Dispatches from IDPF Digital Book 2014, Pt. 1: Wattpad June 1, 2014

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, Publishing, Services, Uncategorized.

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), the standards body in charge of the EPUB standard for digital book publishing, puts on a conference-within-a-conference called IDPF Digital Book inside the gigantic Book Expo America in NYC each year.  Various panels and hallway buzz at this year’s event, which took place last week, showed how book publishing is developing regarding issues we address here.  I’ll cover these in three installments.

First and most remarkable is the emergence of Wattpad as the next step in the disruption of the value chain for authors’ content.  The Toronto-based company’s CEO, Allen Lau, spoke on a panel at the conference that I moderated.  Wattpad can be thought of as a successor to Scribd as “YouTube for writings.”

There are a few important differences between Scribd and Wattpad.  First, whereas Scribd had become a giant, variegated catchall for technical white papers, vendor sales collateral, court decisions, academic papers, resumes, etc., etc., along with more recently acquired content from commercial publishers, Wattpad is focused tightly on text-based “stories.”

Second, Wattpad is optimized for reading and writing on mobile devices, whereas Scribd focuses on uploads of existing documents, many of which are in  not-very-mobile-friendly PDF.  Third and most importantly, Scribd allows contributors to sell their content, either piecemeal or as part of Scribd’s increasingly popular Netflix-like subscription plan; in contrast, Wattpad has no commerce component whatsoever.

In fact, the most remarkable thing about Wattpad is that it has raised over $60 million in venture funding, almost exactly $1 million for each of the company’s current employees.  But like YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, and various others in their early days, it has no apparent revenue model — other than a recent experiment with crowdfunding a la Kickstarter or Indiegogo.  There’s no way to buy or sell content, and no advertising.

Instead, Wattpad attracts writers on the same rationales by which YouTube attracts video creators (and Huffington Post attracts bloggers, etc.): to give them exposure, either for its own sake or so that they can make money some other way.  For example, Lau touted the fact that one of its authors recently secured a movie deal for her serialized story.

Apparently Wattpad has become a vibrant home for serialized fiction, fan fiction, and stories featuring celebrities as characters (which may be a legal gray area in Canada).  It has also become a haven for unauthorized uploads of copyrighted material, although it has taken some steps to combat this through a filtering scheme developed in cooperation with some of the major trade publishers.  Wattpad has 25 million users and growing — fast.

This all makes me wonder: why isn’t everyone in the traditional publishing value chain — authors, publishers, and retailers — scared to death of Wattpad?  It strikes me as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars in VC funding to create expectations among its youthful audience that content should be free and that authors need not be paid.

There’s a qualitative difference between Wattpad and other social networking services. Copyright infringement aside, TV networks and movie studios didn’t have much to fear from YouTube in its early days  of cat videos.  Facebook and Tumblr started out as venues for youthful self-expression, but little of that was threatening to professional content creators.

In contrast, Wattpad seems to have crossed a line.  Much of the writing on Wattpad — apart from its length — directly substitutes for the material that trade publishers sell.  Wattpad started out as a platform for writers to critique each others’ work — which sounds innocuous (and useful) enough — but it’s clearly moved on to become a place where the readers vastly outnumber the writers.  (How else to explain the fact that despite the myriad usage statistics on its website, Wattpad does not disclose a number of active authors?)

In other words, Wattpad has become a sort of Pied Piper leading young writers away from the idea or expectation of doing it professionally.  Moreover, there are indications that Wattpad expects to make money from publishers looking to use it as a promotional platform for their own authors’ content, even though — unlike Scribd — it can’t be sold on the site.

By the time Wattpad burns through its massive treasure chest and really needs to convert its large and fast-growing audience into revenue from consumers, it may be too late.

Panel Lineup for Copyright and Technology London 2014 May 26, 2014

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, UK.
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I’m happy to announce the lineup of panels for Copyright and Technology London 2014, which will take place on Wednesday 1 October at the offices of ReedSmith in the City of London, produced by my good friends at Music Ally.  This is a call for proposals to chair (that’s “moderate” for Americans) and speak on panels.

As with past conferences, we will have a morning full of plenary sessions, after which we will separate into Technology and Law & Policy tracks.  Our morning session will feature a keynote address by Maria Martin-Prat, Head of Copyright Unit, Intellectual Property Directorate, Internal Market and Services, European Commission.

Here are the panels for the Technology track:

  • New Challenges and Responses to Online Piracy
    The proliferation of cyberlockers, cloud storage, and BitTorrent sites has led to new challenges for media companies looking to reduce the amount of infringing content stored online. Piracy monitoring services must keep up with new data storage and distribution schemes as well as new ways in which large-scale infringers can make content available. We’ll review some of the new challenges and responses to online piracy as well as the nature of demands on piracy monitoring services.
  • Content Protection for 4K Video
    The next frontier in digital video, known as 4K, offers four times the pixels of HD. Although movie studios are capturing content in 4K, the ecosystems for delivering it to consumers are still being defined. Along with superior viewing experiences, 4K gives Hollywood an opportunity to call for redesigned content protection schemes that remedy some of the deficiencies of existing ones. In this session, we’ll discuss Hollywood’s objectives for 4K content protection and hear about some proposed solutions and their tradeoffs.
  • Rights Expression Languages: Automating Communication of Content Rights
    The idea of machine-readable languages for expressing rights was introduced with some of the first DRM systems some time ago. But more recently, rights expression languages have found their ways into various interesting applications for conveying rights information among links in content value chains, to support commerce and licensing agreements efficiently and unambiguously. In this session, we’ll hear from organizations who are developing schemes to apply machine-readable rights expressions to digital images, news, and other forms of content.

And here are the panel session for the Law and Policy track:

  • Should Internet Service Providers Be Copyright Cops?
    Internet service providers (ISPs) are beginning to take responsibility for copyright infringement that occurs over their networks – whether voluntarily (as in the UK and USA) or by force of law (as in France and Austria). On this panel, we will discuss developments that have taken place both in courts and behind the scenes that chart the progress of the content industries in getting ISPs to take responsibility for the copyright behavior of their subscribers, and whether educational or punitive measures are necessary to reduce infringement online.
  • Ripples Across the Pond: The Influence of American Copyright Reform
    The United States has begun the long journey of reviewing and reforming its Copyright Act, which dates back to 1976.  Although opinions on how or whether to revise the law differ greatly, most agree that the law is a poor match for today’s rapid developments in digital content and services. Our panel of multi-national experts will speculate on the areas of the law that are most likely to change during the ensuing review process, and on how those changes will be likely to affect developments in law and technology in the UK, Europe, and beyond.
  • Copyright and Personal Digital Property
    Recent legal activity throughout Europe has profound reverberations concerning citizens’ rights to the data they put up online – or that is put online on their behalf.  European courts have decided that people have certain rights to have their personal information removed from online services.  Meanwhile, the European Commission is reopening debate around a Notice-and-Action scheme for removal of copyrighted material online, similar to the U.S. Notice-and-Takedown regime, which some advocates claim impinges on free speech while others claim is ineffective at curbing infringement.  Are we headed toward an online society that respects information as personal property, and if so, is this a good idea?  We’ll discuss these issues.

At this point we are accepting proposals to chair or speak on any of these panels.  Deadline is Friday, June 13.  Please email your proposal(s) with the following information:

  • Speaker’s name and full contact information
  • Panel requested
  • Chair or speaker request?
  • Description of speaker’s experience or point of view on the panel subject
  • Brief narrative bio of speaker
  • Contact info of representative, if different from speaker*

As mentioned above, the agenda is subject to change.  If you have another idea for a panel, we’d love to hear about that as well.

If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, we have three levels, which are described in our brochure; please ask and we’ll send you one.  The top-level Conference Sponsorship is a single opportunity that we offer on a first-come, first-served basis to work with the program chair (that’s me) to define a plenary session of interest to our audience.  Thanks in advance for your interest!

*Please note that personal confirmation from speakers themselves is required before we will put them on the program.


Announcing Copyright and Technology London 2014 April 25, 2014

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Europe, Events, UK, Uncategorized.
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I’m pleased to announce that our next Copyright and Technology London conference will take place on Wednesday, October 1, at the offices of ReedSmith in the City of London.  This is the same beautiful venue as our conference last October, with 360-degree floor-to-ceiling views of the city. Music Ally is producing the event.  Now in our fifth year, the mission of the Copyright and Technology conferences is to bring together a diverse group of lawyers, technologists, policymakers, and business people for education and intelligent dialog about the nexus of copyright and technology.  The London conference focuses on issues of particular interest in the UK and the rest of Europe but also offers international perspectives from the US, Australia, and beyond.

At this point, I am soliciting ideas for sessions.  What are the hot issues for people concerned with copyright in the UK, Europe, and beyond?  As in past Copyright and Technology conferences, the agenda will consist of plenary sessions with a keynote speaker in the morning, and afternoon breakouts into Technology and Law & Public Policy tracks.  Please feel free to suggest session topics that will appeal to technologists, law and government professionals, or all of the above.  Also feel free to put forward names of speakers for sessions.

We plan to have a working agenda in place by June, so please send me your session proposals by May 16.

As in the past, sponsorship opportunities are available.  Copyright and Technology London 2014 is a great opportunity to connect with top-tier decision makers from law firms, media companies, technology vendors, service providers, and government.  Please inquire if you are interested in learning more.

Rights Management (The Other Kind) Workshop, NYC, April 30 April 14, 2014

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, Rights Licensing.
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I will be co-teaching a workshop in rights management for DAM (digital asset management) at the Henry Stewart DAM conference in NYC on Wednesday, April 30.  I’ll be partnering with Seth Earley, CEO of Earley & Associates.  He’s a longtime colleague of mine as well as a highly regarded expert on metadata and content management.

This isn’t about DRM.  This is about how media companies — and others who handles copyrighted material in their businesses — need to manage information about rights to content and the processes that revolve around rights, such as permissions, clearances, licensing, royalties, revenue streams, and so on.  Some large media companies have built highly complex processes, systems, and organizations to handle this, while others are still using spreadsheets and paper documents.

Rights information management has come of age over the years as a function within media companies.  It has taken a while, but it is being recognized as a revenue opportunity as well as an overhead task or a way of avoiding legal liability — not just for traditional media companies but also for ad agencies, consumer product companies, museums, performing arts venues, and many others.

The subject of our workshop is “Creating a Rights Management Roadmap for your Organization.”  We’ll be discussing real-world examples, business cases, and strategic elements of rights information management, and we’ll be getting into various aspects of how rights information management relates to digital asset management.  Attendees will be asked to bring information from their own situations, and we’ll be doing some exercises that will help attendees get a sense of what they need to do to implement workable practices for rights management.  We’ll touch on business rules, systems, processes, metadata taxonomies, and more.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Henry Stewart (a publishing organization based in the UK) has been producing the highly successful DAM conferences for many years.  I’ve seen the event grow in attendance and importance to the DAM community over the years.  Come join us!

And speaking of events: I’m pleased to announce October 1 as the date for our next Copyright and Technology London event.  Details to follow.

Copyright Technology, Gangnam Style November 7, 2013

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Asia-Pacific, Events.
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The Samsung TV monitor wasn’t particularly large.  But the picture was so sharp that, even from several meters away, you could make out each hair of the perfectly sculpted eyebrows on the perfectly groomed K-Pop starlets performing on the MTV Korea broadcast.  The scene was a casual neighborhood restaurant in Gangnam, the upscale district of Seoul that PSY made world-famous.  The makgeolli (Korean rice wine) flowed freely, if more freely to the locals than to those of us who had flown across many timezones to get there.  We were all celebrating the successful end of ICOTEC, the International Copyright Technology Conference, which attracted 600 attendees earlier this week.

This is what happens when a government not only pays lip service to copyright but also puts its money where its mouth is.  South Korea is in the midst of a perfect storm of growth in digital media: Samsung Galaxy mobile devices everywhere; broadband Internet at speeds several times those available in the west; K-Pop idol factories churning out one international sensation after another.  The media, telecoms, and consumer electronics industries don’t agree on everything (e.g., consumer electronics companies refuse to pay copyright levies on their devices), but they largely cooperate – as their offices sit near one another in Digital Media City, a special district across town from Gangnam that emerged from a landfill site just over a decade ago.  Much of that cooperation is fostered by the government, and it has resulted in a global digital media juggernaut.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) sponsored ICOTEC, now in its third year.  It was as well organized as any private-sector conference I’ve seen, and admission was free.  The conference program had more emphasis on technology than on law compared to my own Copyright and Technology conferences in New York and London.  That’s fitting because, as I have mentioned, Korea and its Asia-Pacific neighbors produce more innovation in rights technologies (relative to their GDPs) than the traditional content-producing regions of the United States and Europe.  But now Korea is producing technological innovations not just to satisfy the distant demands of western media companies; it’s launching innovative content models and technologies to protect copyright for the benefit of its own multi-billion-dollar content.  As ICOTEC attendees could see, Korea has perhaps the most vibrant rights technologies industry of any single country in the world today.

The Korean government’s own foray into rights technology is particularly interesting:  it operates the Copyright Protection Center (CPC), part of the Korean Federation of Copyright Organizations (known as KOFOCO).  The CPC runs a piracy monitoring system called ICOP — a reverse-engineered acronym for Illegal Copyright Obstruction Program.

ICOP is analogous to private-sector piracy monitoring services such as MarkMonitor, Irdeto/BayTSP, Muso, Ayatii, and various others.  It monitors various types of online services, including P2P file-sharing sites, web portals, “web-hard” (Korea’s equivalent to “cloud storage”) services, torrent sites, and so on.  Like those piracy monitoring services, ICOP uses a combination of techniques including fingerprinting technology and analysis of metadata and information surrounding potentially infringing content on the monitored sites.

ICOP gathers data in real time and sends takedown notices to the sites, which remove the content to avoid action from Korean law enforcement. CPC claims that nearly all of the monitored sites take down the accused content when requested.  The effort also includes crackdowns on physical piracy: CPC employees armed with smartphones use specially-designed apps to photograph sellers of pirated DVDs and CDs on streets, in subway stations, etc.  The apps geo-tag the photos and send them to the CPC in real time, where the data is displayed on maps, analyzed, and passed on to law enforcement for further action.

ICOP is arguably more effective than monitoring efforts elsewhere because it’s better integrated with law enforcement.  Media companies in the west use private-sector piracy monitoring services, which provide data that copyright owners must use to generate takedown notices and initiate litigation and law enforcement actions.  The hands-off approach of western governments fosters competition among piracy monitoring services, which should theoretically lead to more effective technologies.  But the reality has been a limit on revenue opportunities that has led to market consolidation, as many piracy monitoring services have merged, been acquired by larger companies for synergies with other businesses, or just ceased operations.

In contrast, CPC gets 90% of its funding from the Korean government.  It operates on an annual budget of about US $5 Million, which works out to just 9 cents per Korean citizen; the other 10% comes from content industry trade associations.  (By comparison, HADOPI costs the French about 15 cents per citizen per year.)

ICOP’s fingerprinting technology comes from the Electronics Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), a government-funded research lab.  Although much of the system is automated, the CPC employs 110 people to monitor and report on illegal content on targeted online services.  The employees are disabled citizens who work from their homes.

(The CPC operates completely separately from Korea’s “three strikes” graduated response regime, which, like HADOPI, targets individual downloaders instead of online service operators.  Korea was actually the first country to implement graduated response.)

KOFOCO started ICOP in 2008 in response to the rapidly growing rate of piracy amid an equally rapidly growing content industry in Korea.  CPC estimates that the size of the illegal content market shrank 27.6% between 2011 and 2012 alone, and that the infringement rate dropped 14% in the same time period.

Yet the Korean government doesn’t just focus on copyright enforcement.  MCST supports what is perhaps the world’s leading effort to educate the public about copyright.  It has also expanded the scope of fair use under Korean copyright law, increased access to public-sector content, introduced more cost-efficient legal processes for small infringement claims (for settlements below roughly US $10,000), and dramatically increased the efficiency of music rights licensing.

The ICOTEC conference put all this activity on proud display for attendees and speakers from around the world.  It was a ton of very interesting information.  The K-Pop CD sampler I bought at the airport on my way back should help — as the makgeolli did — to further my understanding of a country whose impact on the global digital media scene will only get bigger and bigger.

My keynote presentation at ICOTEC 2013 is available on SlideShare.  Watch this space for links to other presentations from the conference.

Panel on Ministry of Sound Added at Copyright and Technology London 2013 October 10, 2013

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, Law, UK, Uncategorized.
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We have added another panel session to the Copyright and Technology London 2013 conference, which will take place next Thursday (17 October).  The most important recent copyright litigation in the UK at the moment is the case of Ministry of Sound v. Spotify, in which the record label is objecting to Spotify making playlists available that mimic the compilation albums for which the label is best known.  The case has broad implications for the limits of copyrightability in the digital age, at least under UK law.

Here is the panel description:

The Limits of Copyright in the Digital Age

The litigation that Ministry of Sound recently started against Spotify will test whether playlists on compilation albums have copyright protection.  It will be played out in the context of the debate about to what extent we as a society are prepared to pay for curation. The same issue faces news-disseminating organisations over their headlines and sports reporters over game highlights. Does our society value the editorial/quality control/validation role that they play? This panel will explore the boundaries of what is – and should be – protected by copyright in the digital age and suggest what directions legal decisions in the future may take.

Although the case was only filed a month ago, we have been able to pull together an excellent group of authorities on both the legal and content aspects of the matter, thanks to the tireless efforts of Serena Tierney of Bircham Dyson Bell, the panel chair and herself an authority on copyright in the digital age.  Panelists will include:

  • Jeff Smith, Head of Music at BBC Radio 2 and 6; former Director of Music Programming at Napster
  • Mo McRoberts, Head of the BBC Genome Project at the BBC Archive
  • Lindsay Lane, Barrister at 8 New Square Intellectual Property and co-author of the standard copyright treatise Laddie, Prescott and Vitoria on The Modern Law of Copyright and Designs
  • Andrew Orlowski, Executive Editor of The Register, who has covered this case.

This means that we will have a packed day of exciting sessions from all around the world of copyright.  Places are still left, so register today!

MEGA CEO to speak at Copyright and Technology London 2013 September 26, 2013

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Asia-Pacific, Europe, Events, UK.
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With less than three weeks to go until our Copyright and Technology London 2013 conference, I’m very pleased to announce some additions and updates to the conference agenda.  Most importantly, Vikram Kumar, CEO of Kim Dotcom’s new service MEGA, will appear by videoconference from New Zealand.  I’ll be talking with him about copyright issues related to the market for cloud storage services, and he’ll take questions from the audience.

I’m also particularly excited about a few of the sessions at this year’s conference.  A very hot topic in the digital copyright field nowadays is websites that attract traffic with offers of free unauthorized copyrighted material and make money from advertising, and what the advertising industry could be doing about this.  Our panel on this issue will include Nick Stringer from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (representing the ad industry side) and Geoff Taylor from BPI (representing recorded music).  It will also feature Jeremy Penston, an independent consultant in the UK who has been the brains behind piracy studies for PRS, Google, and Spotify; and Nick Swimer from the law firm of Reed Smith to provide the legal context.

And speaking of piracy studies, our panel on cyberlockers will feature David Price of NetNames (formerly Envisional), author of a highly detailed study called Sizing the Piracy Universe just this week.

We will also get a presentation on HADOPI, the French graduated response agency, from Pauline Blassel, HADOPI’s research director —  just a week after the agency is to give a progress report in Paris.  And speaking of progress reports, our session on the launch of the Global Repertory Database (featuring speakers from Google, STIM, and others) should be quite interesting.

With a spectacular setting at Reed Smith’s offices in London, Copyright and Technology London 2013 should be a great event.  Please register today!  Our sponsors, MarkMonitor and Civolution, are helping to keep registration fees low.

For those of you on the other side of the world from London, you may also be interested in the International Copyright Technology (ICOTEC) 2013 conference, which will take place at the COEX conference center in Seoul, Korea, on November 4-5.  I will be giving one of the keynote addresses.

C&T London 2013: Registration Open; Speaker Deadline Approaching July 9, 2013

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, UK.
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Lots of announcements to make regarding our Copyright and Technology London 2013 conference coming up on October 17.

First I am very pleased to announce our keynote speaker: Richard Hooper CBE, the media and telecommunications industry veteran whom the UK Intellectual Property Office commissioned to carry out the recent study that led to the recommendation for a Digital Copyright Exchange.

Secondly, conference registration is now open with early bird pricing through the end of summer.

Thirdly, sponsorships are still available.  Please email me if you would like to receive a sponsorship prospectus and explore the possibility of joining MarkMonitor, Reed Smith, and Civolution as sponsors.  If you are a trade association or other membership organization, we can offer registration discounts to your members if you become a media sponsor and help publicize the event.

Finally, we have several openings left for speakers and moderators.  Please take a look at the agenda and consider sending a proposal.  Please email it with the following information:

  • Speaker’s name and full contact information
  • Panel requested
  • Moderator or speaker request?
  • Description of speaker’s experience or point of view on the panel subject
  • Brief narrative bio of speaker
  • Contact info of representative, if different from speaker*

Please note that personal confirmation from speakers themselves is required before we will put them on the program.

Copyright and Accessibility June 19, 2013

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, Law, Publishing, Standards, Uncategorized.
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Last week I received an education in the world of publishing for print-disabled people, including the blind and dyslexic.  I was in Copenhagen to speak at Future Publishing and Accessibility, a conference produced by Nota, an organization within the Danish Ministry of Culture that provides materials for the print-disabled, and the DAISY Consortium, the promoter of global standards for talking books.  The conference brought together speakers from the accessibility and mainstream publishing fields.

Before the conference, I had been wondering what the attitude of the accessibility community would be towards copyright.  Would they view it as a restrictive construct that limits the spread of accessible information, allowing it to remain in the hands of publishers that put profit first?

As it turns out, the answer is no.  The accessibility community, generally speaking, has a balanced view of copyright that reflects the growing importance of the print disabled to publishers as a business matter.

Digital publishing technology might be a convenience for normally sighted people, but for the print disabled, it’s a huge revelation.  The same e-publishing standards that promote ease of production, distribution, and interoperability for mainstream consumers make it possible to automate and thus drastically lower the cost and time to produce content in Braille, large print, or spoken-word formats.

Once you understand this, it makes perfect sense that the IDPF (promoter of the EPUB standards for e-books) and DAISY Consortium share several key members.  It was also pointed out at the conference that the print disabled constitute an audience that expands the market for publishers by roughly 10%.  All this adds up to a market for accessible content that’s just too big to ignore.

As a result, the interests of the publishing industry and the accessibility community are aligning.  Accessibility experts respect copyright because it helps preserve incentives for publishers to convert their products into versions for the print disabled.  Although more and more accessibility conversion processes can be automated, manual effort is still necessary — particularly for complex works such as textbooks and scientific materials.

Publishers, for their part, view making content accessible to the print disabled as part of the value that they can add to content — value that still can’t exist without financial support and investment.

One example is Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher.  Elsevier has undertaken a broad, ambitious program to optimize its ability to produce versions of its titles for the print disabled.  One speaker from the accessibility community called the program “the gold standard” for digital publishing.  Not bad for a company that some in the academic community refer to as the Evil Empire.

This is not by any means to suggest that publishers and the accessibility community coexist in perfect harmony.  There is still a long way to go to reach the state articulated at the conference by George Kerscher, who is both Secretary General of DAISY and President of IDPF: to make all materials available to the print disabled at the same time, and for the same price, as mainstream content.

The Future Publishing and Accessibility conference was timed to take place just before negotiations begin over a proposed WIPO treaty that would facilitate the production of accessible materials and distribution of them across borders.  The negotiations are taking place this and next week in Marrakech, Morocco.  This proposed treaty is already laden with concerns from the copyright industries that its provisions will create opportunities for abuse, and reciprocal concerns from the open Internet camp that the treaty will be overburdened with restrictions designed to limit such abuse.  But as I found out in Denmark last week, there is enough practical common ground to hope that accessibility of content for the print disabled will continue to improve.

CISAC World Creators Summit 2013 June 6, 2013

Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events.
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The World Creators Summit (formerly World Copyright Summit but still WCS) took place this week in Washington, DC.  The event is run by CISAC, the international umbrella organization of collecting societies that mainly serve songwriters, composers, screenwriters, and visual artists.  Its decision to change the name reflects the fact that copyright is not only no longer an insider’s domain but also carries negative connotations in some circles.

The CISAC event takes place every two years, alternating between Brussels and Washington.  This year’s conference was an improvement on the last Washington event in 2009 in that it felt more broad in its focus and less concerned with the “inside baseball” of collecting societies.  In fact, a consistent refrain throughout the event was the need for collecting societies to make it much easier for digital service providers to get licenses to content.

A few sessions at WCS particularly stood out.  One was on antipiracy initiatives, such as the graduated response systems in France (Hadopi) and the US (Copyright Alert System).  The most interesting thing we learned there was that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, recent rumors of Hadopi’s death (such as this one and this one) have been greatly exaggerated.  (As is often the case, Ars Technica got it the most right.)  The reality is that Hadopi’s core “three strikes” system will remain intact, but without the threat of suspending users’ Internet access and with maximum fines lowered from €1500 to €60.  The Hadopi agency itself is to be disbanded, but the functions will simply move to another existing French agency, a process that has already started with the transfer of some personnel.

In other words, Hadopi is being repositioned as more of a copyright education campaign — closer to the Copyright Alert System being administered by the Center for Copyright Information, whose CEO, Jill Lesser, was also on the panel.

Although the Copyright Alert System is too new to report results, Hadopi has had time to acquire and analyze a significant amount of data.  Hadopi’s director of legal affairs, Sarah Jacquier, acknowledged that Hadopi only addresses P2P file sharing and does not address direct downloads or illegal streaming.  She noted that while both legal and illegal streaming have increased since Hadopi started in 2009, that same period saw drops in measured P2P usage, increases in usage of legal services, and an increase from 71% to 78% in the number of users who use legal content services only.

Another interesting panel was “Re-connnecting with the Digital Narrative”; it dealt with the need to re-establish the importance of copyright in the public dialog after the defeat of SOPA and similar legislation last year.  Catharine Saxberg of the Canadian Music Publishers Association stressed the need for a simple, unified narrative to match the “freedom” and “censorship” rhetoric used in the SOPA/PIPA defeat, while her compatriot Eddie Schwartz of the Songwriters Association of Canada told of his organization’s “Fair Trade Music” campaign. I found this panel’s relatively low attendance disappointing, given the topic’s crucial importance.

One of the penultimate sessions was a debate between David Israelite of the National Music Publishers Association and Zahava Levine of Google.  Many of us were anticipating a contentious prizefight along the lines of Levine’s debate with several collecting society and media trade association representatives at the 2009 event.  In that respect, we were disappointed: the conversation was more of a love duet.  Israelite praised the increasing importance of YouTube as a licensed music channel and source of ad revenue (which is admittedly more a promise for the future than current reality), and noted that agreements with YouTube were worked out within current copyright law and without recourse to blanket or statutory licenses.  (Levine is actually no longer chief counsel for YouTube; she now runs content partnerships for the Android platform, including Google Play.)

The tone among collecting society representatives at WCS has also shifted over the past four years, from inward-looking self-congratulation and turf protection to a sense of urgency that collecting societies have to work together, erase both functional and national boundaries, and generally make it much easier to license content in the digital age.

Axel Dauchez, CEO of streaming music service Deezer, called rights fragmentation “the cancer of the digital world,” and noted music analyst Mark Mulligan said that “rights fragmentation steals the oxygen away from early stage startups” looking to license content.  His remarks preceded those of electronic music pioneer and incoming CISAC president Jean-Michel Jarre (did he echo the title of Jarre’s biggest hit album intentionally?), who also stressed the need to automate and simplify licensing.  Jarre also stated, regarding the tension between the creative and tech sectors, “I think the worst is behind us.”  Although I found some people skeptical about that, the tone of this year’s edition of WCS did augur more hope for the future than previously.

Finally, I couldn’t help but notice a remark made by Matt Mason of BitTorrent.  Apparently BitTorrent is working with the media industry on a legitimate content distribution model based on a new type of torrent-able file that contains e-commerce functionality, “bring[ing] the store to the user.”   We don’t have any details on this yet but… sounds to me like DRM?

Update: The functionality that BitTorrent is introducing (in beta at this writing) is called BitTorrent Bundles.  It is not DRM.  It’s more like paywall functionality bundled with the torrent file delivery mechanism, so that the publisher of a file distributed through the BitTorrent protocol can force users to take an action before being able to view or listen to some of the content.  This action could be an e-commerce transaction, but it could also be something non-monetary such as supplying an email address, liking the artist on Facebook, etc.


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