OECD Conference on the Future Digital Economy

By EDRi · February 2, 2006

The OECD held a two day conference ( 30-31 Juanuary 2006) in Rome on “The
Future of Digital Economy – Digital Content Creation, Distribution and
Access” with over 350 participants from companies, lobby groups, NGOs and
governments. These stakeholders debated the issue and discussed how
government policy should respond to the change in content production,
delivery and use.

The discussion focussed less on the infrastructure and more on the
debate about the production of “digital content”, as broadband access
today is more widespread and so it was considered more important to talk
about possible new emerging business models for digital content creation
and how governments could contribute to a supportive environment for
broadband content.

The topic of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the protection of
intellectual property were often brought up. While there were several
very imprecise calls for more protection, there were concerns about the
right balance between different interests as well. There was also an
acknowledgement about problems involving DRM, especially the concerns about
interoperability, which basically means to have a DRM solution that allows
moving content from one device to another. Growing consumer concerns against
DRM were also brought up, including the question whether government
regulation should help to create interoperability and open standards.
Unfortunately, there was no real agreement on what to do.

Another topic often discussed was the growing amount of users who are
beginning to produce and share digital content online and where DRM is
not needed. The topic of new user habits and social attitudes was
brought up by several speakers and debated on the panel about new user
habits and social attitudes. John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of Pew
Internet and American Life Project gave insights to the results of some
of their studies on broadband access and online behaviour and mentioned
the growing usage of the Internet by broadband users for content
creation and entertainment. This was supported by a presentation form
David Sifry, President and CEO of Technorati, who talked about the
growing importance of blogs and the shift from a consumer economy to
what he calls a participatory economy and the BBC Creative Archive
project leader Paul Gerhardt, who pointed out the importance of building
a new public value by providing content that can be reused by the public.

“Network neutrality” or what some called “business model neutrality” was
another hot debated issue, especially when it comes to the involvement
of governments as regulator. Michael J. Copps, US Federal Communication
Commissioner and others stated that it is not the role of government to
pick winners and losers. On the other hand it remains to be seen they
keep to these statements, especially in regard to several initiatives
like the broadcast flag and others.

Some organisations of artists, civil society and consumers were able to
present their opinion, but they should definitely be more integrated and
the topic should also be regarded from a broader perspective and not
only focused on “digital content” and economy.

The conference didn’t end with a consensus, but it rather highlighted
some contested areas. Donald Johnston, general secretary of the
OECD, concluded that there is still a lot of work, until they are able
to write a recommendation on the topic.

Website of the OECD Conference on the Future Digital Economy: Digital
Content Creation, Distribution and Access

( Contribution by Daniel Boos – EDRI member – Swiss Internet User Group)