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Thursday, 03 November 2011 14:30

Ericsson calls for consumer-friendly, market-promoting copyright reform

By

Ericsson has produced an opinion paper calling for the development of a competitive and consumer-friendly digital content market to enable easy and lawful access to digital content, saying that copyright enforcement alone will not put an end to the present rampant piracy.
 

"Any future copyright enforcement policy should ideally be developed from a clear and evidence-based approach," it says. "An approach that carefully balances the incentives and rewards provided to economic rights holders against fundamental rights of privacy, self-expression, due process and the user rights embodied in copyright law to protect access, learning, critique, and reuse."

The paper Copyright Enforcement In The Networked Society has been authored by Ericsson Group's director government and industry relations, Rene Summer; Dr Nicolas Suzor, a researcher in intellectual property and technology law and a lecturer in the law school at Queensland University of Technology; and Patrick Fair, a partner in the Technology, Communications and Commercial Group of Baker & McKenzie in Sydney.

The paper summarises what it calls "The apocalyptic advances of technology in creative industry" and the steps taken by copyright owners to counter the impacts of these starting with "the enactment of the Statute of Anne by the British Parliament in 1710, the first copyright law in the world."

It concludes that: "the development of copyright law has predominantly been to strengthen the rights of economic rights holders by expanding the time-span and scope of the exclusive rights, increasing penalties for infringement, and reducing their private costs of enforcement.

"The networked communications infrastructure and the use of networked applications will decisively continue to shape the digital competitiveness of nations. Hence, a one sided approach to enforce copyright at the expense of all other stake holders and at the expense of digital competitiveness of nations is NOT the answer."

The authors argue that, rather than continuously expanding copyright, enforcement and increasing deterrence, future reforms should be: fact based, balanced, include all relevant stakeholders, focus on end user demand, respect the right to privacy and freedom of communication, support continued innovation in new technology and services, promote growth of lawful digital services and market efficiency and respect the relative nature of property rights such as copyright.

CONTINUED

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Summer told ExchangeDaily that overseas research and experiences referenced in the paper demonstrated a willingness to pay for rather than pirate digital content, where it is available; and that figures for 'losses' from reduced sales of physical media claimed by content owners did not reflect reality.

"The impact of file sharing on the total industry is not entirely negative and the so called 'facts from rights holders cannot be replicated with academic rigour by independent analysis. That has been substantiated by two independent government reviews," he said. "We do not believe that enforcement is something that should be justified based on competition from other platforms that legitimately remunerate rights holders."

He said that Norway demonstrated that increased availability of legitimate services could displace illegal file sharing. "In Norway total [music] industry revenues have increased. Physical sales have declined but more musicians are making an income and total industry revenues have grown."

In 2008, Norwaco - a copyright organisation that enters into agreements on the secondary use of audiovisual works - calculated that 22339 pieces of music were copied illegally ever week. A year later the number had almost halved, to 13538 and fell to 11793 the following year. During this period there were no new enforcement measures; threes-strikes or graduated responses introduced.

Summer also cited Scandinavian research suggesting that people were willing to pay a reasonable price to watch new movies at home as soon as they are available in cinemas. "We have research from a film think tank in Norway showing that people will pay twice the price of cinema ticket to for a premium VoD offering."

The research, conducted across Norway, Denmark and Sweden, found tht 70 percent of consumers would watch movies on TV at twice the price of a cinema ticket if they could get flexible viewing times and newer films.

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He added that trials along these lines had met with strong resistance elsewhere. "We have seen Time Warner Cable releasing a handful of movies in competition with cinema release and we have seen trials in the UK where Alice in Wonderland was made available on DVD within about three weeks of cinema release but the cinemas boycotted it."

Summer also cites research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, showing how the music industry is leading the charge into the delivery of its content digitally. Record companies' trade revenues from digital channels grew by an estimated six per cent in 2010, to total $US4b, according to PWC, and digital channels now account for an estimated 29 percent of record companies' revenues, compared with 25 percent in 2009.

The value of the digital music market today amounts tomore than four times the combined online revenues generated by the book, film and newspaper industries. Just one percent of film revenues are generated in digital channels, while 99 percent of revenue comes from physical channels - theatre, DVD rentals and DVS sales.

In Australia figures and forecasts from PWC show minimal growth in digital revenues from subscription TV services, movies and newspaper publishing from 2006 to 2015 compared to spectacular growth in recorded music. In 2006 percentages for all these sectors were five percent or less. PWC forecasts digital music revenues to be almost 70 percent of music sector total revenues by 2015, films 11 percent, newspaper nine percent, and subscription TV only about two percent.

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