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Posts Tagged ‘Statute of Anne’

Are NFTs the future of digital IP and the creative world, or just a remix of DRM and all its woes? (Part 2)

January 23, 2022 2 comments

This is second in a series of posts I drafted to share some observations, opinions and conclusions from playing with this intriguing technology that sits squarely at the intersection of: creative content, digital tech and intellectual property. The topic is broken down into the following parts:

  1. What are NFTs (and the non-fungibility superpower)?
  2. What has this got to do with Intellectual Property (and content protection)?
  3. Does it mean that NFTs are like DRM remixed?
  4. How does it affect the creative industry today and in the future?
  5. Summary observations and conclusions.
Read more…

Publishers vs. eBook Price Fix vs. Copyright

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Recent developments in the world of publishing, clearly demonstrate yet again that the primary objective of the content industry is to make a tidy profit. Nothing wrong with that, if you ask me; however, it usually turns into a rather sticky mess when that pursuit is clouded by accusations of skulduggery, conspiracy and outright price fixing.

I refer to a recent lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department against Apple and 5 major book publishers, over allegations of conspiracy, collusion and price fixing. According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, it could change the course of a rapidly expanding eBook publishing industry. But how so, you ask?

Well, it is really down to opposing business models, (i.e. the so called agency versus wholesale approach to eBook pricing), where, on one hand, an agent such as Apple will allow publishers to set their own price, and take a cut (in this case 30%) from sales on its iBook platform. On the other hand, a wholesale pricing model is one where the retailer (e.g. Amazon or Barnes and Noble) sets the price for eBooks and can effectively apply discounts as they wish (even if it means selling eBooks at a loss). Obviously, this latter scenario leaves publishers with less control over prices, and consequently profits, hence the opportunity to take advantage of a more favourable option could not fail to be attractive.

However, the question remains about the value proposition for consumers, who are themselves increasingly embracing eBooks for its convenience, ease of use and, perhaps more to the point, a huge potential for significantly lower prices overall. One might argue that eBooks do not require paper, glue, physical stores / shelf space or any significant distribution / transport costs, therefore they really shouldn’t be priced anything close to their physical versions. Surely, this quest to keep prices high can only be in favour of publishers, and their bottom lines, mustn’t it?

So what are the key arguments / rationale for keeping eBook prices artificially high? Perhaps the main reason has to do with high operating costs incurred by large publishers, as well as the need to maintain a powerful marketing and promotional machinery. Furthermore, it may also be argued that lower cost eBooks are somehow cannibalising the margins to be had from physical books. Whatever the case, it seems publishers stand to lose out if they don’t do something (innovative?) to counter the effects of change.

Hmm, now where have we seen this before, (and how did that industry cope / survive)? Ah, yes, the music industry went through something similar, except they chose to sue those pirates and freeloaders (aka the people formerly known as customers), that supposedly ‘stole their bottom line’. However, they seem to have found other ways to complement dwindling revenue streams, e.g. via ticket sales for live performances. By the way, death may no longer prevent artistes from performing before a live audience, assuming this deceased artist hologram idea catches on.

Luckily the book publishing industry don’t have to take quite so drastic a measure, especially as it has been shown time and again that new media formats and channels do not necessarily mean the complete demise of existing ones. This is arguably the perfect time for publishers to embrace even bolder / more innovative thinking to discover complementary initiatives that will bolster an industry under threat, real or imagined. They must observe and capitalise on consumer trends and emergent user behaviours. For example, the sheer capacity, variety and anonymity (i.e. no tell tale covers) of reading material to be found on your average eBook reader means that users now carry, consume and explore hitherto unthinkable (at least in public) subject matter. The current boom in romantic erotica sub-genre, aka Mommy Porn, is an interesting case in point.

Perhaps even more fundamental, is a need to seriously consider the verboten idea of evolving copyright into something much better aligned with the digital age. Unfortunately, that will be a tough sell to the publishing industry, if this report of a speech given by HarperCollins International Chief Exec, at the London Book Fair, is anything to go by. According to the article, “others in the book trade, including the Publishers Association” have criticised the recent Hargreaves Review of Copyright, which some feel could weaken the current copyright regime. As you may have gathered by now, I don’t subscribe to that point of view, but then I am only an author and may not see things in quite the same light as a successful publisher might.

In many ways, this whole situation could be seen as a remix of circumstances surrounding the birth of copyright. In 1710, the printing industry lobbied for creation of a law to govern the rights to print or reproduce works (now known as the Statute of Anne), in order to protect their interests and the authors / creators of said works. Copyright is essentially an artificial system, which routinely needs a degree of manual intervention whenever new and disruptive content technology or consumer trend emerges. That, in my opinion, is the fundamental flaw with copyright which any revision thereof must try to address. In an age of multi-platform, multi-channel and multi-format publishing, there really is no place (or time) for manual intervention each time a new and disruptive trend, challenge and opportunity presents itself. I for one would be more than happy to attempt to demonstrate just how such a system could work (based on real copyright content), but then I would probably need a hefty six figure advance from some far-sighted multi-publisher to make it happen. Who says there is no future for publishing?

Copyright Barks And Reality Bites

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Perhaps it’s the fine August weather, but the announcement of support by the UK Government for all  ten fairly sensible recommendations on Intellectually Property reform (by the last independent Review of Intellectual Property), gives rise to some optimism about the future of copyright and other forms of IP, in the UK at least.

The press release, which can be found on the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website, states that Ministers have accepted the recommendations “which estimate a potential benefit to the UK economy of up to £7.9 billion.”  Who can argue with those numbers at a time of sorely needed economic growth, I wonder?

Anyway, it goes on to highlight some of the key recommendations including:

  • A Digital Copyright Exchange – i.e. a market place where licences to copyright content can be bought or sold. The question to answer is how such an exchange will look and work.
  • Limited Private Copying – also known as format shifting; whereby it will no longer be illegal to copy legally purchased content from one format to another (e.g. from CD to PC). This one is just a reality update, in my opinion.
  • Copyright Exception for Parody – basically introduces a new exception to Copyright that will make it legal to parody someone else’s work without seeking prior permission.
  • Copyright Exception for Text and Data Mining – another exception to legalise the use of existing search and analysis techniques for research (e.g. medicinal or pharmaceutical research)
  • Clearance for the use of Orphan Works – Resolves a particularly vexing issue that prevents the legal use of Orphan Works (i.e. where no owner can be identified).
  • Evidence Based Future Policy on IP – This makes the case for future IP policies to be backed by solid evidence. This is an interesting one which may well be decided by execution in spite of its noble sentiment.

Also, according to the press release, “a new intellectual property crime strategy and international strategy for intellectual property have been published”, to direct the enforcement of IP crimes and issues at home and abroad.

As you can imagine, there’s been lots of reaction to this and other interesting developments, (e.g. the decision, by OFCOM, to drop the Digital Economy Act provision for website-blocking which would compel ISPs to block sites that host copyright infringing content). But there’s always a certain amount of fear mongering and doom saying associated with any such announcement and, in my opinion, they don’t amount to much until the words are turned into action by their execution – which will effectively make or break original intentions. In any case, I sincerely hope this development will help to bring a new era for Copyright leadership, in the same country where it all started, with the Statute of Anne!

Disclosure: This author helped to gather and draft the Institute’s response to the Independent Review’s Call for Evidence earlier this year.