Intellectual property rights and Internet

An article published by the Le Soir in Belgium about British Telecom CEO take on Intellectual Property Rights.

As the article published on paper is not accessible from outside, before the review I will summarize the points that will be discussed in the review itself- if you want a copy of the article or a summary, please visit the newspaper link at the bottom of this review.

His position

Mr. Ben Verwaayen considers that the author protection societies are still following outdated business models, that are actually constraining choice and offer on the Net.

A simple example is having customers to pay online music as much as they would pay in shops.

He consider that author protection societies should make a strategic choice: being just a right-collecting agency, or becoming part of the value chain.

Mr. Verwaayen thinks that charges should be tailored to the specific country and situation.

As for recent requests that telecom share Internet revenue as it is mainly based on music and video, he thinks that this is absurd, as any problems between Internet users and publishers should be negotiated between the two parties, not transferred to telecoms.

Finally, he believes that Internet will increase the number of artists able to reach public, by-passing the intermediaries, and then delivers the usual telecom spin on convergence.

Our review

The Romans would say- “Cicero pro domo sua”

Of course a telecom would not like to lose a slice of revenue in royalties paid to traffic generators.

But- remove videos, music, comic book- and who will sign up a contract for broadband?

In most Western European countries broadcast companies had already “bundle” agreements with author protection (originally- royalty collection agencies) to pay a slice of revenue and have freedom to broadcast, instead of bean-counting rights.

Moreover, the telecom operators are currently installing “Big Brother” software due to current security concerns: why shouldn’t they be able to offer packages as “copyright-free bundle” (i.e. as the one for broadcast companies) or “pay-per-view”? actually, they are testing and delivering pay-per-view, so why should authors not be able to collect a share of the revenue that they generate?

The only side-effect of the Internet on author societies should probably be their radical re-inventing of their own mission: and this is a point only sligthly hinted at by Mr. Verwaayen, as he is obviously cloaking under a “market trends discussion” what is really more a page-long advertisement than a proper interview.

Why “re-inventing”? Because removing intermediaries is feasible only for artists that have the expertise or are already managed by organizations that are able to deliver them all the support they need.

It is a telecom fairy-tale that artists will be able to reach the public at no cost; actually the only losers should be the record and movie distribution companies (replaced by telecom), but most artists will still need help in organizing all the legal, technical, logistical issues related to publishing, marketing, collecting rights.

In the end, the distribution model on the market could see the telecom as just one of the distribution channels, and current record and movie companies reduced to another distribution channel, while services like author representation, marketing, logistics, etc could be “unbundled”, allowing authors to pick-and-choose between competing offers, instead of being constrained by overreaching contracts.

And this is were the author agencies could play a role: instead of being at the end of the production chain, they could support authors before they enter into distribution agreements.

the original article

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