Digital Citizens – The Age of Intellectual Property
It was a quality panel at the 10th Digital Citizens event moderated by the talented James Fridley @fridley:
- Mark Pesce (@mpesce) inventor, writer, entrepreneur, educator and broadcaster
- Keir Winesmith (@drkeir) Development manager and technical lead for SBS
- Matt Moore (@engin_eer) intellectual capital consultant to corporates, government and NGOs
- Julian Peterson (@JulianFPeterson) former TimeOut marketing boss
There’s a quandary right now which we are all well aware of. Everyone loves content—film, music, books, software but people are becoming less prepared to pay for it. Content may be king but businesses have to not only contend with people wanting it for free but other businesses pilfering and benefitting from it with no permission.
“It’s not piracy, it’s audience driven distribution” — @mpesce
The night opened with a lot of talk around avoiding IP laws, and the differences between countries in their approach to this tricky legal matter. The conversation was too fast for me to capture but apparently Russia is pretty relaxed. The moderator quizzed the audience on their knowledge and use of various licences. The panel consensus seemed to be that fair use is what you can get away with.
There is no arguing with the points raised by the panellists. Content producers have to start thinking from their users’ perspective because audience behaviour is flouting the law. The twitter stream was busy with protest that all content distributors should take note of such as having to wait weeks if not months for content already airing overseas. Do you do a Metallica and sue your fans? Do you do like Radiohead and give it away?
“The Internet is bigger than YouTube. Restrictions and take downs will just drive desire elsewhere” — @mpesce
Is the content the product? Should authors and exclusive distributors even be so protective? A case study was provided by Julian Peterson who definitely thinks so. When at Time Out he successfully pursued a legal case against a Chinese publisher who stole Time Out content. The magazine even has a strategy in play for people embedding their images on other sites with image URLs redirecting to a Time Out logo.
So what does the future hold? There was a lot of discussion on ads, personal data and targeted marketing. Although there was also discussion about the difficulty of gaining ad revenue from local advertisers when content has an international audience. The twitter stream was anticipating faster streaming video (and more pilfering) come the NBN. The future money for artists was said to be found in experiences be they film audience ventures like The Tunnel, or exclusive opening nights for block busters. Mark Pesce warned for the future of the mid budget film as the market most at risk.
I asked a question of the panel around music artists and labels. How should artists be renegotiating deals with labels? Do musicians even need labels? While Mark Pesce saw no need for artists to use labels with their function soon to be overtaken by specialists performing various roles, he will still publish his next book though Random House acknowledging the cachet that comes with that label. I will admit though that artists are already and will increasingly have to cultivate closer relationships with their audiences if they are to build an audience and derive an income.
“Find five thousand people, get them to give you 10 quid a year and you’ve got a living” — Matt Moore
For anyone worried, there is already hope and precedent. Netflix trumps torrent sites in terms of website traffic in the US because it provides the audience with a seamless and effortless way to consume and pay for content.
Video of the night’s talk and the twitter stream are available on the Digital Citizens site. The audio is a bit patchy in parts so I have included some videos of my own, taken on my phone below. I will update this post if there have been permission violations. Thanks to the organisers for a great event.
Footnote: For my enquiring efforts during the evening I won a Star Wars Jedi manual. For anyone curious this is what it does: