(No.137) How do we ensure the future of creative content online?

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Workshop Theme: 
Emerging Issues
Theme Question: 

Question 2

Concise Description of Workshop: 

The internet has helped to open up a global market for content producers.  However, while it has made it easier for producers to share their work, it has also made it easier for this work to be copied and distributed without permission.  This proposal is for a workshop session at IGF Baku which will build on the discussions from the UK-IGF in March.
Prior to the UK-IGF meeting in March 2012, we asked UK stakeholders to identify topics that were of importance to them. A number of our stakeholders suggested content and IP regulation as an area they were interested in discussing. This resulted in a workshop titled: “Content creation in a changing world: How do we build the right environment?” The session looked at how we could ensure the future of digital creative content. A short report from this workshop is available on the UK-IGF website at:  http://ukigf.org.uk/wp-content/plugins/downloads-manager/upload/UKIGF_Mar2012_content_creation_workshop_report.pdf
The discussions around content and copyright are contentious and can result in strong reaction from those on either side of the debate which is not conducive to constructive discussion. Many discussions on this topic therefore focus on one side of the debate. The audience at our March workshop felt that the question of copyright had to be at the core of any discussion around online content creation and could not be ignored.
This workshop aims to include the whole spectrum of the debate. However, rather than assessing what is wrong with the current model and ending up with polarisation of the debate we would like this session to be constructive and informative rather than re-affirming entrenched positions.  In order to achieve this, we will focus the discussion on practical elements, assessing constructive mechanisms for ensuring that the future of creative content across all sectors is secure. 
This workshop will look at how to promote and maintain a competitive and vibrant content market going forward. We will begin by imagining the content market in 10 years time, thinking of the wider issues about how people might select and “consume” content in the future, and how the content producers are rewarded/ incentivised to produce this content. Through interactive discussions with the audience the panel will examine ways in which we can work towards ensuring this future, including the production of locally generated content. 
The session will focus on answering the questions: 

  • What are the threats to the future of online content production?
  • How do we safeguard against these threats?


  1. Set the scene and outline of the objectives of the workshop:  Moderator. (5 minutes)
  2. Welcome & introductions.  Panelists (5 minutes)
  3. Assessment of problems: What are the threats to the future of online content production? What are the issues with the current model? (30 minutes)
  4. The way forward: How can we safeguard against these threats and what changes are needed to ensure there is a future for online content production?  How do you see the market changing? (30 minutes)
  5. Conclusions, way forward:  Moderator, Panelists (20 minutes)
Organiser(s) Name: 

Laura Hutchison, Nominet, on behalf of the UK-IGF. Nominet is a technical and a business entity. The UK-IGF is a multi-stakeholder partnership.UK-IGF (http://ukigf.org.uk/)

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

 Chair - Kate Russell, Journalist, BBC Click  - CONFIRMED
Dr Ian Brown, Oxford Internet Institute – CONFIRMED
Bill Echikson, Google – CONFIRMED
Mary Uduma, Nigeria Internet Registration Association – CONFIRMED
Cedric Wachholz, UNESCO – CONFIRMED

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Kieren McCarthy CONFIRMED
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
About half of the participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Reported by: 
Laura Hutchison, Nominet for the UK-IGF
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 
  • Kate Russell, Freelance journalist and reporter – Chair
  • Dr Ian Brown, Oxford Internet Institute
  • Bill Echikson, Google
  • Mary Uduma, Nigeria Internet Registration Association
  • Cedric Wachholz, UNESCO

Kate Russell opened the session by asking the panellists to think about what the Internet might look like in ten years time when it comes to creative content. 
Ian Brown began by likening the Internet to a celestial duke box which has been enabled by the fast pace of the internet and innovative products such as Spotify.  The technology for further development is largely there but it is the issue over artist compensation which is sticking point.  He highlighted how even within Europe, the differences in the legal framework for copyright law in the 27 member states makes very difficult for content producers to move between and market in all countries. 
Bill Echikson shared some stats to illustrate how quickly the internet is growing:  In May 2011, 325 million websites were registered worldwide, every day five exo-bytes of data are created on the Internet and 250 thousand words are written on the google blogger product, 72 hours of video is uploaded every minute on You Tube and all this content is becoming more accessible as the internet spreads.  The internet allows wider information sharing:  18th Century Dutch horticulture books are being viewed from Australia.  World wonders project in conjunction with UNESCO – helped to increase visitor numbers to Pompeii by a quarter. 
Bill also highlighted how online advertising is allowing creators to receive revenue from this rather than by selling their content.  He stressed that the audience is online now so creators have to reach out to them therefore reform is inevitable. 
Mary Uduma agreed with Bill and stressed that for the competitive market to succeed there must be supply and demand.  The demand for content is not going to change in 10 years.  Mary envisioned that the mechanism for sharing would probably change but the basic principles will remain the same.  The most important thing for the artist or content creator is compensation to encourage them to keep creating.  The relationship between the creator and service provider is key to the future of the content market and the sharing formula has to be acceptable to both parties.
Cedric Wachholz asserted that content creation is the key to equitable and inclusive knowledge societies.  He felt that predicting the model in 10 years time is not easy.  For UNESCO the key areas for development are:  diversity, inclusiveness, relevance and accessibility – increasing cultural and multi-lingual content online.  English is no longer the number one language on the web and it is important to have the goal of inclusiveness.    Content comes from all areas and these should remain accessible for the future  increasing digital heritage.  Cedric agreed that it was important to consider how to ensure the continued generation but there is also also the question of how we archive older content so that it remains accessible. 
In response to Bill’s point about advertising funding content, Cedric also flagged that some content is also publically funded.  Advertising is not the only way to fund.  Kate noted that crowd funding was also a massive growth area. 
Kate then invited the audience to examine what the threats to a dynamic model are moving forward what they felt needed to change in the current model in order to achieve this vision from the future. 
A number of participants contributed to an active discussion.  The key points were: 
A sound legal framework and a change in culture is key to allow creativity to flourish. 
The print model is no longer relevant and we are currently in a period of transition. 
The European motion picture industry was highlighted as an example.  There are differences in payment methods and the remuneration levels are not the same across all areas, just as the level of investment differs.  The speaker stressed that the industry is an employment provider and is providing economic benefits to the country so it was important that they were protected. 
A participant highlighted the dispute between Google and France and argued that this shows how powerful Google is in that they can just refuse to carry French newspapers.  90% of search market is via Google.  Others noted that there are other methods of making content available, not just Google and you tube.  The 90% figure is misleading.  The majority of people looking for the New York Times goes direct to their website rather than through Google.  It was suggested that strong brands will evolve and survive. 
Following a discussion around responses to infringement, one speaker felt that it was important to remember that blocking for abuse is not same as restricting freedom of speech. 
The group had a discussion around who has responsibility for content and it was remarked that more and more obligations are being put on intermediaries for controlling content eg as going directly to Google to request that a link to a defamatory story is removed rather than perusing the originator or distributor. 
The Hargreaves review in the UK was noted as an example of an academic trying to contribute research and data to the debate.  Ian Brown agreed and called for more evidence-based policy making, stressing that policies should be set on a thorough understanding of the needs and challenges of the environment and considering all possible impacts. 
The group suggested that pressure for speed of blocking is not necessarily the answer.  It is important to do all the relevant research before blocking or takedown.  Some members of the group felt that piracy was a result of a failure of good legal avenues to access content.  Others responded that it was impossible to compete with free products and gave the analogy of a shopping mall trying to sell products when a stand outside was giving the same products away for free.  The bottled water industry was held up as a counter argument to this as well as i-tunes which sells paid for music that is freely available via pirated and free means. 
The group briefly discussed the idea of the requirement for the standardisation of a proportional response to cases of infringement. 

Conclusions and further comments: 

In closing the panel gave the following remarks:
Mary suggested that there has to be a distribution of compensation.  High quality works should have different model of compensation to lower or less “valuable” works and it is up to the producer to decide the level they are happy with.  Market forces will dictate if the fees are agreeable. 
Cedric agreed that there needs to be an adaptable legal framework but we also need a change of culture.  Both sides need to work together to move forward. 
Bill agreed that the discussion should focus on how to move forward rather than backwards or in the same entrenched positions.  He urged the group to look towards the constant innovation of the TV and DVD markets. 
Ian called for more inclusive and better evidenced policy discussions.  Technical controls are too easy to bypass so we need to work towards another solution. 
The Chair closed the workshop agreeing that discussions need to be forward looking and constructive.  Standards of enforcement have to be agreed and a fair and level playing field for competition and innovation is what we should be aiming for.