European Commission Calls for Copyright Overhaul

Nov 22, 2011 6:00 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — As the global push for copyright reform continues to escalate, several influential bodies are weighing in, including the European Commission.

Intellectual property rights and the challenges of preserving them in a global economy, such as those within the realms of digital media (including Hollywood films, music and yes, even adult entertainment), as well as counterfeit goods, such as fashion and fan ware, are being examined as never before — with competing interests striving to win the day.

In fact, current polling by XBIZ Research suggests that more than 15 percent of adult entertainment stakeholders consider “Piracy” to be the factor “most influencing online adult entertainment today.”

The topic was recently discussed at the Forum d’Avignon, an association and event dedicated to bridging the worlds of culture and economy.

Promoting its manifesto of “Culture is Future,” Forum d’Avignon claims that current media and cultural industries account for nearly twice the revenues of the international tourism industry; with Europe’s cultural sector creating 6 million jobs within the region.

“But beyond figures, culture is, above all, an intimate experience, a meaningful link between individuals,” a Forum d’Avignon release states, adding that the nonprofit’s main goal is “to promote culture as an investment and not as a cost,” noting that culture creates value and dynamism in the economy, education, innovation and social cohesion.

According to Forum d’Avignon, it is “a think tank dedicated to culture,” formed after the ratification of the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity — one which has been backed by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication since its beginning.

“It’s a laboratory of ideas dedicated to culture,” the release continued. “Its aim consists [of] suggesting subjects for reflections at global, European and local levels.”

Subjects the body is involved in include bringing the group’s concerns regarding the evolution of global copyright law and the need to protect the interests of rights holders up “for reflections” — providing a European perspective on a worldwide problem.  

It is against this unique backdrop that European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, renewed her criticism of the copyright system and once again laid out her artist-centric vision of Europe’s future, stating that “we must be able to support those who create art.”

“We must be concerned about the fate of Europe’s struggling artists and creators,” Kroes stated. “Art feeds the soul. But who feeds the artist?”

The problem revolves around coming to a global agreement on a concise and legally enforceable framework for copyright protection.

“Morally, we want dignity, recognition and a stimulating environment for creators,” Kroes offered. “Economically, we want financial reward so that artists can benefit from their hard work and be incentivized to create more.”

While Kroes understands the necessity of continuing the fight against piracy, she notes that increasing difficulty of legal enforceability and the fact that millions of dollars spent on enforcing copyright laws have not stopped piracy — with some efforts doing no more than angering consumers, who “increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what is behind it.”

“Sadly, many see the current system as a tool to punish and withhold, not a tool to recognize and reward,” Kroes continued, adding that “Speaking of economic reward: if that is the aim of our current copyright system, we’re failing here too.”

Kroes looks to cloud computing, and the new mechanisms it offers for obtaining and consuming copyrighted content, as a foundation for collective rights management along with other solutions based upon information and communications technology (ICT).

“In all sorts of sectors, ICT can help artists connect with their audience, directly and cheaply,” Kroes stated, adding that ICT “can help audiences find and enjoy material that suits their specific needs, interests and tastes.”

While she noted that ICT assets could provide further technical assistance, such as “supporting a system of recognition and reward,” some privacy advocates may find cause for concern over some of her plans: such as the creation of a “Global Repertoire database to find out what belongs to whom,” and utilizing “tracking technologies [that] permit a totally transparent process for artists and intermediaries to find out who is looking at what artwork when and to distribute revenues accordingly.”

While such invasive content preference monitoring may not find many fans in adult, for an industry as battered by unenforceable copyright regimes as this one is, any gains in the battle against piracy will be welcome.

“We need to go back to basics and put the artist at the centre, not only of copyright law, but of our whole policy on culture and growth,” Kroes concluded. “In times of change, we need creativity, out-of-the-box thinking: creative art to overcome this difficult period and creative business models to monetize the art.”

In the meantime, the battle wages on…

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