1. Tide is turning: Copyright to support growth in the digital era

Tide is turning: Copyright to support growth in the digital era

Copyright is possibly one of the most controversial policy topics that have been talked about, lobbied and contested by various stakeholders for a very long time. Skeptics on both sides would say that not much has really changed since the genesis of the controversy, as the debate has always come down to two things: First, the tension between insiders benefiting from the prevailing copyright regime and outsiders, i.e. innovators who are barred from benefiting from the established status quo, and second, the symbols of copyright that creators and users represent, squeezed-in and marginalized in the copyright revision process.

Outsiders, the ‘pirates’, have changed over time and have often turned into insiders as time has passed. Examples are the self playing piano, FM radio, gramophones and cassette tapes, cable-TV and video cassette recorders. Today, hardly anyone would call these industries or technologies ‘pirates’, but that’s the position they once took.

New technologies and innovation have been growth engines for the creative industry sector as they have facilitated market reach, increased consumption opportunities, and have introduced new types of creative products. This has contributed to increased consumer spending. Recognizing this advantage, the tension between insiders and outsiders has in fact been about how to manage risks associated with shifts in the value chain, and about necessary transformation of business models due to the introduction of new technology and innovation.

Over the last two decades there has been pressure to strengthen copyright laws in the digital environment, e.g. by providing cheaper enforcement mechanisms and more severe penalties for infringement. However this enforcement-only focused approach fails to recognize that file-sharing is a symptom of a problem, rather than the problem itself. The root cause of the problem is the inadequate availability of lawful, timely, affordable, and wide-ranging choices of digital content offerings. This is fundamentally a market-supply failure.

In the article “Letting the baby dance, New copyright rules for the digital age” from Sep 1, 2012, The Economist states: “Now the tide is turning. For many politicians, property rights for media moguls are taking second place to attempts to boost growth by making life easier for technology companies”

This quote might at first seem quite controversial, but is it really? What it says is:

•Insiders’ interest in protecting the prevailing system and in relying on more enforcement to protect the status quo is no longer the number one priority.
•The number one priority now is to boost growth by making it easier for outsiders, e.g. innovators, to do what new technology has always done best, for instance to inject growth.

Simply put, the enforcement-only focused approach is out of fashion and even more politically toxic.
This new focus on growth and not on a singular stakeholder interest is the big change in the late copyright reform debate.

To be continued!

Written by Rene Summer

Director of Government and Industry Relations Rene is responsible for policy, formulation and promotion research in the areas of telecom regulation, TV-broadcast regulation, media regulation, copyright, advertising, state aid and consumer privacy.

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