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A Warm Breeze from Davos Thaws the Online Cold War?

It has been popular in recent years to portray the debate over how the internet functions and how its functioning could be improved as some sort of Manichaean divide: a struggle between the forces of freedom and sharing and the forces of commerce and control. The stark duality of this over-simplified, zero-sum world view has had the effect of freezing meaningful dialogue on this critical issue for our times, creating a stalemated Cold War that has prevented anything meaningful from being discussed, much less accomplished.

Into this dogmatic Cold War comes an intelligent breeze that gives hope for a thaw and with any luck a return to meaningful dialogue.

A Report was issued last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos entitled: Norms and Values in Digital Media: Rethinking Intellectual Property in the Digital Age .

In the current stalemated political environment, this is a fairly astounding document. And it should be noted that this is not a top down assessment from the Davos elite, but rather the organic genesis of genuine dialogues between stakeholders in the North and the South, the East and the West. The Report notes:

Bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in the field revealed many points of contention. Nevertheless, the discussions revealed common elements of a shared vision for the future. The purpose of these principles, therefore, is to help stakeholders with disparate interests to identify areas of agreement. Getting to policy or legislation may still be contentious, but it will be more productive if, when inevitable disagreements arise, the stakeholders are able to refer back to the principles and discuss how the disagreements fit within this framework.

 

The principles articulated in the Report are spelled out below. The music industry is singled out as follows:

“In some industries, such as the music industry, significant progress has been made to shift or create new business models to reflect new consumer behaviours – streaming music services like Spotify being one such example. It is still unclear, however, what new business models and mechanisms will emerge to support large-scale, expensive works in the future.”

What principles are to be drawn from this? They are all important, but I would highlight in particular the following:

  • Foster and reward creativity: Develop a vibrant creative community that encourages the production of diverse content and rewards creators through financial remuneration, recognition or other types of value.
  • Give creators and rights owners control and choice: Provide creators and rights owners with tools to decide and control how their work is shared and used.
  • Strengthen global collaboration: Strengthen collaboration between people and governments in different geographic areas to help ensure that these principles can be respected and implemented globally, given the transferability of digital media.

Here are the principles in full:

Principles for the Creative and Information Economy in the Digital Age

Stakeholders attempted to identify a shared set of values through dialogues in the two pilot markets, the UK and Indonesia, as well as at one workshop in the US. Workshops were held to establish common ground among diverse stakeholders in the two pilot markets. Bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in the field revealed many points of contention. Nevertheless, the discussions revealed common elements of a shared vision for the future. The purpose of these principles, therefore, is to help stakeholders with disparate interests to identify areas of agreement. Getting to policy or legislation may still be contentious, but it will be more productive if, when inevitable disagreements arise, the stakeholders are able to refer back to the principles and discuss how the disagreements fit within this framework.

 

The principles are:

  •  Foster and reward creativity: Develop a vibrant creative community that encourages the production of diverse content and rewards creators through financial remuneration, recognition or other types of value.
  • Build an ecosystem for innovation: Create an ecosystem where innovation can occur by providing a level playing field for businesses and individuals, and incentives for innovation.
  • Expand access to content: Offer a wide range of means for the public to reach content, enabled by the Internet and other technologies, maximizing societal and economic benefit.
  • Inform users about ownership rights: Ensure that information about the ownership and permitted uses of digital content is clear and accessible to all, especially as technology enables more collaborative creation.
  • Give creators and rights owners control and choice: Provide creators and rights owners with tools to decide and control how their work is shared and used.
  • Enable people to be creators: Enable people to make, share and exchange content online by providing access, skills, tools and choice.
  • Strengthen global collaboration: Strengthen collaboration between people and governments in different geographic areas to help ensure that these principles can be respected and implemented globally, given the transferability of digital media.

This should provide a constructive shared foundation on which to build meaningful dialogue, resolve disagreements and, as the Report notes, “get to policy” that makes the internet a constructive forum for us all.

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