(No.34) Standards for Sustainable Digital Culture

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Workshop Theme: 
Emerging Issues
Theme Question: 

Emerging Issues - Question 2 "...acceptable and proportionate measures..."

Concise Description of Workshop: 

The workshop will address the question of how digital works which are shared via the Internet (either with permission, e.g. granted by means of a Creative Commons license, or without permission) can be effectively linked to a website of the artist(s) or author, so that they can have a significant positive marketing effect (and not just the effect of often undesired competition to commercial offerings). The workshop will focus in particular on audio formats like MP3 and OGG and the possible addition of standardized URL metadata. The motivation for exploring this idea is that on one hand, copyright holders are complaining that the Internet environment is not sufficiently conductive to their legitimate interests of earning money through cultural contributions. On the other hand, the frequently heard call for ever more heavy-handed measures to enforce copyright on the Internet threatens the Internet's essential freedoms (which are in fact essential for the human rights foundations of information society) and is in fact contrary to the fundamental property of culture that culture is something that people share. Therefore, it is important to explore how digital cultural goods can be produced in economically sustainable ways that do not conflict with the freedom properties of the Internet, nor require heavy-handed copyright enforcement against people who wish to share digital cultural goods in non-commercial ways. This workshop explores specifically the contribution that technical standardization can make, in particular with regard to the inclusion of URL metadata in e.g. MP3 and OGG audio files, so that anyone who received a copy of the file can easily visit the copyright holder's website and spend money there. Panelists will discuss possibilities and difficulties of amending the relevant technical standards, and discuss what can be said about realistic expectations for economic benefits.
Agenda for the workshop:
1. Conceptual overview of the idea to further sustainable digital culture by including the artists's website URL e.g. in audio files.
2. Would this be beneficial to artists? Would the benefit be significant?
3. How does this relate to online freedom of expression? What are the risks? What are the potential benefits? What can be done to make the benefits outweigh the risks?
4. What are the challenges that need to be overcome in order to implement the idea? How can they be addressed? What roles can governments play?
5. Comments and questions from the floor and from remote participants, and responses from the panelists.

Organiser(s) Name: 

Norbert Bollow, Swiss Open Systems User Group /ch/open, civil society

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

The following persons participated as on-site panelists:

  • Ms. Beatriz Busaniche, Fundación Vía Libre, Argentina (civil society)
  • Mr. David Hughes, CTO of RIAA, USA (music industry)
  • Mr. Janis Karklins, UNESCO (intergovernmental organization)
  • Ms. Jillan York, Electronic Frontier Foundation (civil society)
  • Mr. Jim Beveridge, Microsoft (software industry)

Participation of the following persons as remote panelists was attempted, alas unsuccessfully:

  • Mr. Lee W McKnight, Syracuse University, USA (academia)
  • Ms. Simona Levi, multidisciplinary artist and director of Conservas, a cultural foundation. Spain. (civil society)
Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Ms. Nnenna Nwakanma
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: 
Norbert Bollow
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

A major challenge in discussing what metadata for digital culture goods would empower the creation of a viable, sustainable ecosystem was that the panelists differed significantly in their perspective on what a viable, sustainable ecosystem for digital culture would be like.
From the perspective of the free culture movement, sharing is important, and it cannot be prevented anyway without violating fundamental human rights, so therefore new business models need to be created which support it. The role of collection societies can be particularly problematic in this context.
From the perspective of the music industry, the free flow of copyrighted content is not inevitable, and it was further argued that metadata which links to the artist's website helps only those artists that can use the music as a promotional tool to sell something else. It was guesstimated that “maybe 5% of the artists could really make a good profitable living by using the music to promote some other thing.”
From the technology perspective it was pointed out that metadata is a way to enable accessing information, and that there is a lot of additional metadata that may be interesting. From the software industry representative it was further pointed out that there is a lot of new technology being developed which aims at allowing a restricted amount of sharing with technical interoperability between different devices, while still maintaining the fundamental business model of selling music.
From UNESCO's perspective it is important to find the right and legal ways of sharing cultural heritage and cultural experiences all across the world. From this perspective, the way forward may be the promotion of Creative Commons and other open licensing practices. Also it is important to work together in developing a sustainable system of long term preservation of digital information in general.
Another potential use of metadata is to encode information related to cultural sensitivities. That idea however raises human rights concerns if that metadata information is then used to refuse provide some categories of content to the people in some parts of the world.

Conclusions and further comments: 

Out of the five panelists, three expressed opinions about the specific idea of using metadata to link to the artist's website. These were all positive or cautiously positive. It was emphasized however that this would not be sufficient to meet the needs of all artists.
Another take-away from this workshop is that even though from a purely technical perspective it would have been possible to discuss metadata separately from the questions around the future of copyright law, in the discussion from the governance perspective this has turned out to be impossible, because a discussion of metadata for sustainable digital culture requires a discussion of business models, which in turn are tied deeply to the questions about future of copyright law. Therefore, the questions about what technical environment is desirable (this includes matters of metadata standards) and about what legal environment is desirable (which includes matters of copyright) need be discussed together, as part of a single problem-solving process, which aims at achieving the good, well-balanced set of objectives outlined in article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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