The continuing debate between protecting copyright and supporting technological innovation dominated every conversation panel at the World Creators Summit, held today in Washington D.C., right through the end of the day when Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who chairs the judiciary committee, explained why he wants Congress to tackle copyright revision.
He cited several reasons for looking at copyright revision, pointing out the disparity between payments to creators by terrestrial radio and services like Pandora or Sirius XM, the definition of fair use and how the Supreme Court's decision on the first sale doctrine impacts copyright law.
"We need to stimulate both creativity and innovation," Goodlatte said. "Both sides need to be rewarded because, as California Congressman Anna Eshoo said, they both need each other."
Innovation is important, Rep. Goodlatte reminded the audience. "Who would have thought in 1996, when we wrote the DMCA [the Digital Millennium Copyright Act], that iTunes would be the largest purveyor of music?"
In possibly revising copyright law, Rep. Eshoo reminded that Congress has to keep in mind what happened with SOPA, and the grassroots feedback that stopped that bill from becoming law. “While some people think marriage is outdated, between technology and content [marriage] is an absolute necessity."
Earlier in the day, Victoria Espinel, intellectual property enforcement coordinator for the White House, also spoke about both sides of the issue. She said her job is to bring together all the agencies and departments of the Obama administration to ensure protection of the country's intellectual property. Espinel said her office is "coordinating responses to a number of threats, including making sure our trade secrets aren't stolen by foreign governments as well as fighting to shut down illegal pharmacies and protecting copyright."
The Obama administration recognizes that the creative sector is crucial to the larger economy, she said. The movie, book, music, broadcast, and other creative industries combined account for about 5 million jobs that pay a wage 70% higher than this country's average wage.
She added that "creative content enriches our lives and is a top export around the world."
On the other hand, the internet represents new opportunities in distribution and marketing, and the U.S. government must also facilitate the development of business opportunities in that area as well, she noted. So while it is very important to protect copyright, it is also important to support the vitality of the internet because technological advances will drive the economy.
She said that in order to resolve the complexity behind the two issues, a sustained and coordinated effort from all sectors of the government is required. But beyond government's role, voluntary agreements between companies in the different sectors are also needed. Espinel also said it would require governments to work together, and stressed a need to educate consumers.
In the next panel, speakers noted that the music industry got off on the wrong foot with the digital channel, resulting in consumers feeling that they were entitled to access whatever music, books and films they wanted without regard to compensation to the creators and rights holders. But "Freeloading" author Chris Ruen, who described himself as somebody who liked getting music from Napster in its early days, realized the other sign of the coin when he was working in a coffee shop in Brooklyn.
"That shop's customers included a number of hipster bands who were selling out venues around the country and yet they were as broke as I was." As a fan of such music, he felt the need to confront the issue and, while initial feedback resulted in a lot of vitriolic hate mail, there was also a huge middle ground willing to listen to the other side.
Harper Collins USA chief digital officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi noted that the book industry had less of an issue with piracy than the music issue because its retailers set up easy-to-use business models early on.
In continuing on the topic of ease of use, Copyright Hub chairman Richard Hooper, who authored "Copyright Works: Steaming Copyright Licensing for the Digital Age," noted that behind the scenes, the music industry still doesn't have licensing schemes that are easy to navigate; nor is it properly managing its data. He noted that ASCAP, BMI and Harry Fox all used different identifiers for their songs, and even where they share songs. That is not good enough for the digital age, he said.
ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento acknowledged that their might be a time when ASCAP, BMI and SESAC integrate databases but, for the time being, there are technical issues preventing that from occurring.
As for managing data, LoFrumento said that digital transactions represent a big challenge for the industry, but added ASCAP can handle it. He noted that while new media accounts for 2%-3% of its revenue, it accounts for 250 billion performances or nearly 15% of the transactions it monitors. Likewise SACEM CEO Jean-Noël Tronc said that digital represents 2% of its revenue but takes up 87% of the organization's data processing.
"We feel very strongly that our database is the right database," ASCAP's LoFrumento said, adding that even with the enormous amount of data it process, he thinks that ASCAP correctly can track 98% of transaction and make payments accordingly.
Hooper said that sometimes copyright is not keeping up with consumers. He noted that while Singapore has a very law abiding population, it has a high piracy rate. One problem, for example, is that a popular Chinese television show isn't available in Singapore until three months after it airs in China.
"I am not saying that maybe you should get rid of windowing, if you are in an industry that uses it," he said. But he urged copyright owners to remember that Netflix made all 30 episodes of "House Of Cards," available on day one.