World IP Day 2016 – Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined

Today, April 26, is World Intellectual Property Day.  The theme is “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined” and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is promoting a discussion of the role of intellectual property in encouraging innovation and creativity.  It has described the challenge of a flexible, adaptive intellectual property system to help ensure that the artists and creative industries in our digital universe can be properly paid for their work, so they can keep creating.

IFRRO recognises the close connection between a strong IP framework and the nurturing of national cultural industries and we welcome the emphasis placed on encouraging cultural activity by remunerating the creators.  This is not a new idea – already in 2013 a UNESCO report on the creative economy concluded that “widespread disregard for IP rights of creators acts as a disincentive for the production and distribution of cultural goods and services” and in 2008 IFRRO issued its Statement on Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expression, in which it expresses its support for “appropriate Intellectual Property Rights as a means to creating functional incentives for investment in it and thereby leading to a richer body of cultural, creative, scientific and academic works”.  Each year new reports appear confirming the crucial role of the creative and cultural industries in the economic well-being of countries across the globe.  Just recently WIPO released a report on National Studies on Assessing the Economic Contribution of the Copyright Industries in Ethiopia, France and Moldova, which underlined the opportunities offered by digital technology to promote public access to cultural works, at the same time allowing “for the fair remuneration of creators and an adequate level of funding for creative activities; such funding being indispensable for continued creativity”.

The new digital technology has transformed the scene.  It has put an unprecedented amount of creative work at the disposal of the consumers and has given them the technical ability to access it – legally or illegally.  As Professor Michael Fraser, Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney, pointed out in his Charles Clarke Memorial lecture last week, the technology that was acceptable for delivering access 30 years ago is woefully inadequate now.  On line consumers feel entitled to access copyright works when, how and where they like.  The producers of the  works – authors and publishers must learn to respond and recognise that new technology also enables them to offer new business models. IFRRO, as the umbrella organisation, uniting authors and publishers organisations and collective management organisations – the RROs - in the text and image sector, has been helping them to do this by organising an open annual IFRRO Business Models Forum (IBMF) for its members and other interested parties.

The next IBMF will take place in conjunction with the IFRRO World Congress (IWC) in Amsterdam in October 2016.  The Congress’ theme “At a Crossroads; Copyright, Collective management and Cultural Heritage” highlights the same challenge that we celebrate today – how to enable a flexible responsive rights management system that meets legitimate needs for access and ensures that authors and publishers can continue to produce high quality works that are properly remunerated . This theme will also be reflected in the IBMF agenda at the Amsterdam IWC.