Approaches to Intellectual Property Rights

A snapshot on session #2 of the 2nd World Forum on Music

by Peter M. Rantasa

 

Globalisation and digitisation are two key words that name the underlying current of structural change that shapes most of the actual challenges that music life and the IMC have to face today. In this context the struggles about the future format of intellectual property rights (IPRs) - for the music sector mainly the authors' rights and/or copyright - and its institutions and governance have turned out to be the focus point. It is here that the conflicts of interest between the diverse stakeholders, lobbying groups and policy makers - the priorities of professional arts, culture in a wider sense and commercial interests, collide. In many countries the relevant legislation is under permanent review and constantly changing. A continuous process to harmonise the legal situation is at work on international level. Besides the efforts to enhance existing IPR-regimes to cope with the new challenges, new models like "global licensing", "cultural flat rate" or "creative commons" have been introduced by various parties.

 

The goal of this session was twofold: It aimed to give an introduction to the complex topic of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in music and to the often exclusive and technical "lawyers/lobbyist jargon" that comes with them, so that the entire IMC membership with its diverse professional and cultural background can participate in the debate. Embarking from there, it aimed to give a comprehensive outline of the key issues for IPRs in the music sector and the diverse, sometimes controversial approaches at global policy level to address them. The speakers represented perspectives of authors, musicians, collecting societies, research, online-business and music industry and the relevant UN organisation WIPO. Their backgrounds are as lawyers, musical practitioners, entrepreneurs and academic scholars.

 

Martin Kretschmer, professor of Information Jurisprudence and director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management of Bournemouth University in the UK, then gave an insight into the earnings of artists and the role of copyright in this context. The evidence shows that the median earnings of authors and artists are well below national average wages, only a small number of authors and artists earn very well. These winner-take-all characteristic is even more pronounced in the music sector where the top 10% of composers and songwriters account for almost 90% of the total earnings of the profession. For musicians, earnings from IP royalties account for about 1% of creative income. The more copyright related the income stream, the more extreme is the distribution of income.

 

The Danish artist Pia Raug added to this in her speech that she can only survive as a composer because she is performing as well. Author's rights - moral and economic - she stated are in some respects so much weaker then the performer's rights. "(US-) Copyright has turned into an industrial right that gives the ‘owner' unlimited control. No wonder that these same corporate business interests wish to have the same unlimited control in the European market - and therefore spend billions of dollars lobbying the European authorities." Raug said.

 

Danny O´Brien, International Outreach Coordinator of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, talked about the liberties that are embodied in the UMC's five rights, and how these may be best expressed in the modern intellectual property and distributive networks. We live in a period of rapid change, and often radical solutions are needed: solutions that may be hindered by current law, or enhanced by new interpretations. How do we get to a world where we can all share our global musical heritage, while ensuring that artists receive not just recognition, but fair remuneration?

 

Peter Rantasa, Scott Cohen and Wend Wendland at the session
photo: mica

IPRs do not benefit traditional cultures


Wend Wendland, head of Traditional Creativity, Cultural Expressions and Cultural Heritage Section of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said in his speech, that the conventional intellectual property system had been identified by some as not only inadequate to comprehensively and appropriately protect traditional cultural expressions but also as positively harmful. First, because IP rules exclude many traditional cultural expressions from protection, consigning them to an unprotected "public domain" and second, follow-on innovations and creations derived from them receive protection as "new" intellectual property and leaving the traditional cultures without any benefit.

 

Changing Copyright Balance in the Digital Era

 

Scot Morris, Director of International Relations APRA|AMCOS said that, digitisation of copyright materials has changed the way cultural works are created, licensed produced and distributed. It challenges existing notions of authorship, control, access and how creators and those investing in creation can be rewarded. There are new major players in the value chain of creation and dissemination - ISPs, search engines and social networking sites. The global debate on these issues includes development issues, territorial issues, competition, consumer and privacy laws and the protection of cultural diversity and of indigenous cultures.

 

In order to save the music business digital revenue not only needs to be a replacement for the dramatic decline in physical sales, it also needs to provide revenue growth, said Scott Cohen, founder of The Orchard. In the mid 90's it was predicted that digital music would grow the industry into a $100 billion dollar a year business. Unfortunately digital sales are NOT replacing the loss of physical sales and NEVER will as long as we continue to implement old business models in a new environment. It is necessary to review the existing digital business models including ala carte sales, advertising and subscription services to analyze the impact of their revenue on the industry.  More importantly it is crucial to understand how users act and interact in a connected environment in order to develop revenue models that work.

 

Technology challenges policy

 

Globalisation and digitisation are two key words that name the underlying current of structural change that shapes most of the actual challenges that music life and the IMC have to face today, Peter Rantasa said. In this context the struggles about the future format of intellectual property rights and its institutions and governance have turned out to be the focus point. It is there that the conflicts of interest between the diverse stakeholders, lobbying groups and policy makers, the priorities of professional arts, culture in a wider sense and commercial interests, collide. A continuous process to harmonise the legal situation is at work on an international level. At the IPR session at the World Forum on Music in Beijing speakers introduced the efforts to enhance existing IPR-regimes to cope with the new challenges, as well as new models like global licensing, a cultural flat rate or the alternative licensing scheme Creative Commons.


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