Saturday 7 June 2008

EC ‘Content Online for Creativity’ conference report

The most recent step for the European Commission’s public consultation on ‘Creative Content Online’ was a conference in Brdo, Slovenia that took place 4-6 June 2008. ALPSP Chair Robert Parker represented us and sends the following report from Ljubljana airport:

Content Online for Creativity - A European Commission Conference under the Slovenian Presidency
Brdo, 4 – 6 June 2008

This invitation-only conference had around 140 participants from most if not all EC member states plus Switzerland and the US and concentrated on piracy and legal offers and new business models for online distribution of content. This was not a publishing-only conference, it covered all areas of content, so there were attendees from Walt Disney, European Newspaper Publishers’ Association and the Premier League, for example. Many of the participants were DCMS-equivalent folk. Talking to Amy Casterton from the Premier League, It is surprisingly clear that the issues that STM publishers have with piracy and business models are common across very broadly different fronts: they also have issues with piracy in China in particular (Chinese websites providing online access to football games with a very small (1 second) time delay), pay per view models, licensing, the need for new business models.

The importance of the development of legal services to deal with piracy was emphasised. These can be pump-primed by public agencies, but they will ultimately rely on cooperation between content-generating organisations. Unfortunately European rights licensing would seem to be a Utopian prospect currently.

Angela Mills Wade (Exec Director of the European Publishers’ Council) presented a statistic that highlights the re-use of content: on average 20 copies of original content are available on the web within 48 hours of its original online publication. She encouraged the use of ACAP, which will be extended to video and images in the near future. Collaboration with ISPs over implementation of ACAP will obviate the need for publishers to have recourse to taking ISPs to court over illegal distribution of content. She also highlighted the problems with Data Protection giving protection to people who illegally distribute copyrighted content.

There was much discussion about what proactive measures rights owners would like ISPs to take with those putting up copyrighted content illegally, citing some sites that have 90% links that are illegal. Many such sites are operating anonymously, so it is very difficult for the rights owners to act. The hosting ISP should take such sites down and provide the name and address of the site owner so that the conflict can be dealt with between the right holder and the site owner. ISPs have been saying that the DPA protects the site owner and they must protect them, but the e-commerce directive states that sites should state on the site the details of the site owner, therefore the protection of the DPA is irrelevant, the site owner should be providing those details on the site. When names and addresses are eventually passed on, 80% of the details are false. ISPs should have a duty in law to verify the details of the site owner and should suspend sites where there is business activity from non-verified owners.

AT&T specialist had suggested that by 2010 the internet could fall apart from two things: egregious behaviour and bandwidth problems. The overwhelming majority of peer-to-peer traffic is illegal. Audiovisual material will make up 80% of all traffic by 2010. There is currently 8 hours of video material uploaded to U-tube every minute. This will be exacerbated when high-definition is more common, leading to a massive bandwidth issue. There is a massive lack of development of voluntary agreements and codes of conduct. Privacy must not be the only fundamental right: it shields illegal behaviour.

Guidelines for removal of illegal content are coalescing around giving 4 infringement notices before suspending sites. Currently 90% of people never receive a second notice, which is encouraging. A fraction of 1% of subscribers to ISP services are terminated. In the UK there is no graduated response yet. Consumer attitudes survey found that 17% would stop illegal hosting if they were sent a letter; 66% said they would stop the illegal activity completely if they thought there was a greater chance of being caught.

85 million songs are illegally downloaded every day, potentially putting the music-creation business at risk.

Many sites have only 10 – 20% of illegal content on their site, but the usage of the site is very heavily weighted towards accessing the illegally hosted content.

Cooperative ventures to produce content-recognition technology would be useful.

Digital rights management, content recognition and filtering are obviously not wanted by those organisations/individuals that rely on the illegal hosting of copyrighted material to drive up their advertising revenue.

In terms of © protection, many said it was not sensible to limit access (eg music industry); there must be another way to get money than by restriction. Music producers are generally keen to give access to all immediately under a creative commons licence as a mid-way between © restriction and public domain.

There was a discussion of e-book licensing, but nothing new.

People are accessing ever greater numbers of films and music but are paying ever less, and their expectations are that content should be free or very cheap. However, performers cannot exist on the 4 c per download they receive from the 99 c per download charged for music.

There was a session on new business models for distribution of online content, but again there was nothing very new or inspirational. Old business models are becoming outdated quicker than new ones are developing. Achieving balance between requirements of all stakeholders is far off. Obstacles are: fragmentation of the market, rapid technological advancement (same content on different platforms), managing © and related rights, cross-border licences etc. Possibilities are that old and new business models could be combined; subsidies; cooperation between creators, distributors and users; development of filtering mechanisms. Winners and losers should be defined by the market.

Robert Parker
6th June 2008

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