Thursday 17 October 2013

Valuing Intellectual Property. Priorities for New Governments: Meeting Consumer and Business Expectations in the UK and Europe

Vince Cable addresses the audience
Valuing IP was the third annual intellectual property conference held by the Alliance for IP in London today. Delegates heard a number of high profile political figures - from Vince Cable to the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Michel Barnier - on the value for intellectual property and the latest policy directions.

Rick Nye, Director of research and strategy consultancy Populus, kicked off with a few key statistics. They interviewed 2,052 British adults online in September 2013 to explore public attitudes towards intellectual property rights. Some of the findings are striking, while some will come as no surprise. People born after 1980 are twice as likely to commit IP infringement than those born before. IP infringement is a massive issue for the creative industries. Interestingly, respondents were far more comfortable with the concept of goods and services IP infringement, but not so with personal data.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, stated his long standing interest in IP and copyright. There is wide recognition within the UK government of how important the creative industries are to the UK economy. What creates economic growth? Research suggests 40% comes from innovation of various kinds, which is underpinned by IP and copyright. He believes that Britain is particularly good at the fusion of creative and science, technical and engineering, but there is a challenge around building skills and balancing across science, technical, arts and engineering, to ensure we have the best workforce to adapt and innovate. The work of the Creative Industries Council and Creative Skillset are central to this aim.

There have been positive steps forward in the last few years with the launch of the Copyright Hub and a lot of progress for developing common standards for data standards. It is important for the UK to be the European centre for content licensing. Other initiatives include IP attaches around the world, small claims track in county court, and - reflecting the balance to strike in each area between protection and access - small changes in copyright to allow acceptable consumer behaviour (e.g. transferring across devices).

Cable believes there is an important role for government to play with educating on the importance of IP. While abuse of IP seems to be declining and more people are paying for their music, there still remains a hardcore: 10% of infringers are responsible for three quarters of infringement. The IPO will launch the 'Music Ink' download game designed to reach over 1 million young people, which will communicate the basic idea of damage done by illegal downloading.

The audience had the opportunity to take part in regular live polls. When asked 'Has the government been supportive of those who rely on IP?' 16.7% chose 'not supportive', 69% 'quite supportive', and 14.3% 'very supportive'. Panellists Mike Weatherley MP, the Prime Minister's Advisor on IP, Martin Spence, Assistant General Secretary at BECTU and Bill Bush, Director of Policy at the Premier League were in general agreement with this spread of sentiment.

Arlene McCarthy in conversation with Lord Clement-Jones
Lord Clement-Jones, 'in conversation' with Arlene McCarthy MEP, stated his belief that the Copyright Hub is the best thing to come out of the Hargreaves report and we need to ensure the UK perspective is represented fully in Europe. McCarthy provided a rude awakening on Britain's standing in the EU. While we have a pretty good track record of pushing through necessary IP protections. (e.g. trade marks, customs regulations, orphan works, etc) the UK's influence in Europe is not good, as we have failed to engage. We are not a popular member state because of the way we negotiate. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an example of this. Many felt it was a good thing, but it went down in a blaze of fire.

Opposition from those who don't like copyright can be strong. Often votes are won only by narrow margins. When people really want something they are highly motivated (e.g. UKIP, Pirate Party, etc) We have to be ahead of and stealthier than them. Industry has to be fit to adapt and tackle the challenge of the internet, but that doesn't mean changing copyright legislation if it's fit for purpose. McCarthy's sentiments echoed those of Eric Merkel-Sobotta, who urged publishers at the recent ALPSP conference to find out who their MEP is and to write, write, write to them to ensure our voice is heard.

She believes that UK industry always has an open door. The move away from Hargreaves has improved our standing in the EU. The ecommerce directive does actually work quite well - fast and quick. A separate notice and take down directive will potentially add more barriers. France and Italy have a big stake in this and are likely to support us. Germany is more ambivalent as their manufacturing is so strong, the creative industries are not as crucial, and they believe that content should be more freely available. For the UK, the creative industries are the only ones holding their own in the financial crisis. We need to support them.

There is a huge opportunity: the internet is there to use in different ways. In the end, the internet needs content - it is its life blood. The creative industries should be more robust about their position. In return for that content, the internet companies should work with us to support us. McCarthy believes there is room for both free and professional content on the internet. And it is not unreasonable that professional content should be paid for. After all, she wouldn't expect a plumber to come and fix her boiler and then not pay him.

The conference closed with a key note speech from Michel Barnier, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market. IP is the backbone to the market with €4.7 trillion generated by IP each year and more than a third of all jobs are directly or indirectly from IP intensive roles.

There is a balance between this and ensuring IP legislation is fit for purpose in the 21st century. IP is not just about jobs and economic value, it's part of life for everyone: not just about how we consume content, but also about rights, access to information and diversity. Copyright must not be a block to content creation. The EU published a road map on developing copyright last December. Reform is long overdue and the aim is to catch-up now. The full transcription of Barnier's talk is available online.

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