Event report: Trends in the creative digital economy

Copyright Kat Clowder
'What's happening in the creative digital economy?' A recent event, hosted by CREATe (the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy), explored “Trends in the Creative Digital Economy: Findings from the CREATe Research Programme” at the Digital Catapult Centre in London. The event combined research presentations and discussions with the launch of the Copyright and Innovation Network. 

Prof Martin Kretschmer (Director of CREATe) kicked things off with an update on CREATe's first funding period, with close to 60 projects delivering their final reports this summer. He also revealed that the event marked the launch of a new phase for CREATe, having received 'follow-on' funding from the UK Research Councils for a period of 18 months, focussing on four key areas with the aim of engaging with the UK creative economy to improve copyright practice and policy. These are (1) co-creation in the production chain: animations and guidance; (2) co-creation from cultural heritage: events and guidance; (3) co-creation in policy deliberation: peer production of evidence; and (4) the Copyright and Innovation Network. You can read more here.

Thereafter, three papers were presented together with responses and panel discussions. First was a keynote by Prof Paul Belleflamme (Prof of Economics at Aix-Marseille Université) titled ‘The Economics of Digital Goods.’ In his paper Belleflamme reviewed the theoretical apparatus that has been most commonly used to analyse the information goods industries. He argued that these models are inappropriate, in light of the advent of streaming technologies which challenges the main assumptions that underlie the existing models. Belleflamme suggested that to update the models we need to better understand consumer choices particularly in relation to streaming. He considered that if streaming services organised themselves, not as re-sellers, but using a marketplace model, things might be different. Although he said during the panel discussion: “I don’t know if it would be a good thing or not… and it might not necessarily be possible for one single platform to make the decision to change the business model.” The full paper is available here.

The panel discussion included a response by Prof Morten Hviid (Director of the Centre for Competition Policy at the University of East Anglia). Hviid added that there has also been a change at the production level as well as the consumption level. For example, he asked why record labels are still doing everything when the artists could do much more themselves. He suggested that whilst established artists have a lot of influence, less established artists are not well supported by the system. [Although this Kat couldn’t help but wonder, perhaps a little naively so, how did the established get to being established if the system is really so broken?]

Katonomist Nicola
The second paper was from our own Kat Dr Nicola Searle, discussing her meta-analysis of CREATe Business Model research. The Katonomist presented her research which concludes that business models aren't changing. The discussion following her presentation suggested some disagreement, but as Nicola's post points out - there is very little agreement on business models in general!

Third, was a report by Dr Joost Poort (Associate Professor of economics at the Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam) titled ‘Reconstructing copyright’s economic rights in a time of rapid technological change.’ Poort spoke on the history and development of copyright, reminding us of the expansions of copyright through subject matter and rights. He also recapped the different perspectives of justifications for copyright be it philosophical, economical or political. In view of this, Poort put forward the case for copyright and welfare economics (a doctrine aimed at maximising a broad concept of social welfare incorporating other relevant norms). As such, copyright would be aimed at, and limited to, optimally resolving the market failure (that without intervention the creation and exploitation are insufficiently excludable). This would involve a broad concept of exploitation, balanced with the welfare costs of protection. This approach, he argued, could in theory encompass the value attributed to freedom of speech, privacy, cultural diversity and in practice amend outcomes of more narrow analysis. The effect would be to allow a creator to exchange access to a work for something which has direct, or indirect, commercial value. He pointed out that copyright should not produce a new market failure by generating more (or less) rights than one would have in an ordinary market. In relation to facilitating access to unauthorised content, this would disturb such control and would therefore, likely have a negative effect on exploitation.

Poort’s paper forms part of an IViR project namely ‘Reconstructing rights: Rethinking copyright’s economic rights in a time of highly dynamic technological and economic change.’ More information can be found here.

Panellists responding to Poort’s paper included Dr SabineJacques (University of East Anglia) and Erin Simon (Product Counsel, Google). Jacques thought Poort’s paper was interesting, although perhaps utopian, but agreed that the current rights are not aligned with today’s creative process and exploitation of the work.

Erin Simon added that if the downstream uses of copyright material are predicted then they could be factored into the price and thereby reduce the value gap. She also commented [to this Kats delight as this was precisely the topic of her PhD thesis] that distinguishing between linking and embedding is, from a technical perspective, quite futile. The difference between the instructions to the browser in the form of the coding is minimal. For example, an embedding code might look like this:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="example.com" frameborder="0" ></iframe>

And a linking code might look like this:

<a href="example.com"/>Click here</a>

On the other hand, from the viewer’s perspective, the difference in the display on the browser is different, of course. However, when the law is applied to online copyright infringement, it tends to be from the technical perspective not the perspective of the user.

The concluding panel
Simon also commented that there are already technical solutions to restrict embedding and linking online. And if publishers were entitled to control the context of the use of their work, how far would that go? Could it mean legally prohibiting direct-linking, ad-blocking or refusing cookies? Simon detailed a case study that highlighted how distinguishing between authorised and un-authorised sources might not be so straight forward. The case was that of Rebekah Johnson v Les Editions De L’avenir SA, involving a bungee jumping video which appears on YouTube. Rebecca Johnson took action against the un-authorised linking to the video, but did not request the video itself be taken down from YouTube.

The event concluded with a panel discussion on the future research agenda for the digital creative economy. The occasion also saw the launch of CREATe’s Copyright and Innovation Network (CIN). The network aims to be a catalyst for new industry-relevant research at the interface of law, technology and social science to address questions such as; what is the future of copyright and platform regulation? What are the big economic trends affecting creative industries? What new business models are evolving in the digital copyright industries? To get involved in the network, email CIN programme director, Sukhpreet Singh at sukhpreet.singh@glasgow.ac.uk.

You can a collection of content from the day here and a storify of the tweets here.

Image credits:
Cat Clowder: Thiery
Katonomist: @Sabine_Jacques
Final panel: @BosherHayleigh

Event report: Trends in the creative digital economy Event report:  Trends in the creative digital economy Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Thursday, June 15, 2017 Rating: 5


  1. The copyright system is a disaster. One only has to look at Disney to see how badly they have done by reason of the law of copyright.

    Also what does "that without intervention the creation and exploitation are insufficiently excludable" mean? Somebody seems to be suffering from economania (a propensity to describe simple propositions in the most opaque of ways - I am allowed to say this, I am an economist). Why not say that "without a way of enabling people to profit from creating works by means of a law of copyright then those works which they would create are not created. There are no sufficient reasons for this."

    Ashley P

  2. Speaking about Prof Morten Hviid's point, I see the traditional record companies as being a lot like traditional publishing companies and even traditional legal publishers: they provide a lot of help that the artist or author find difficult to do themselves. technical help in audio production, editing help in publishing.

    I notice some more modern publishers are concentrating on that, and outsourcing or mechanizing producing physical records and books

  3. "Without intervention the creation and exploitation are insufficiently excludable" is fairly standard way of saying that copyright represents an intervention in the market to create excludability. Plus the whole incentives-to-innovate theory etc. Ashley - I'm not sure your interpretation is saying the same thing.

  4. Nicola, that is sort of my point. If I, an economist and IP lawyer of about 25 years of doing a bit of copyright here and there, don't understand what is being said then how can anybody else? The IPKat's readers come from a wide range of backgrounds and are not all economists or copyright lawyers with long experience. I am not sure that I accept that the language is standard for readers of the IPKat's website and I have certainly never heard it used in all of the economic literature on the subject I have read; I do not doubt you, it is just that that means of expression has never come my way. Couldn't somebody have interpreted? You can (and have done) when you write economic articles, so I know that it is possible and that the will is there. It is helpful. This is a plea for clearer prose.



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