Possible solutions for remunerating content creators in the digital era

By EDRi · June 16, 2010

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Deutsch: [Urheberrecht im digitalen Zeitalter | http://www.unwatched.org/node/2001]

On 8 June 2010, Green Party Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) hosted
the conference Financing Culture in the Digital Era on how to balance easy
public access to culture with guaranteed remuneration for content providers.

The purpose of the meeting was to try and find “mutually beneficial
solutions” to ensure access to culture while ensuring a decent living to
the creators of online content at the same time. An idea that seems to be
gaining more traction as a way of addressing copyright infringement is that
of a flat rate or mandated monthly sum paid by Internet users for
file-sharing and remixing.

Volker Grassmuck, a sociologist, believes a “cultural flat rate” would be
needed, that is, a “collectively managed legal permission” for the private
and non-promotional sharing of published works in order to end “copyright
extremism”. He cited two UK studies demonstrating that a large majority of
file-sharers are willing to pay for the use of copyrighted items.

Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of la Quadrature du net and CEO of the Society
for Public Information Spaces, a free software developing company, backs the
idea of a flat rate system arguing that the fundamental premise of any
approach to charging for listening to music or watching films online should
be that sharing files is a basic right. He recommended a new system by which
an Internet subscriber would pay a monthly fee of 5 – 7 euro that would
generate a fund for paying artists whose work is shared on the Internet.

Peter Sunde, from the Pirate Bay and founder of Flattr, a micro-payment
network with an open implementing system, presented that type
of voluntary financing scheme, by means of which an Internet user would give
between 2 and 100 euro per month being able to nominate works that he wished
to reward or “flattr”. Mr. Sunde thinks that this system responds to the
desire of the majority who are “interested in treating people the way they
want to be treated”. “Givers” and “receivers” are both designated “users”.
In his opinion, the comments published on a blog might be considered more
valuable than the blog’s principal text, thus the notion of “creation is
something we have to redefine due to the low threshold for creation”.

Maja Bogataj Jancic, legal counsel with the Institute of Intellectual
Property of Slovenia, spoke of how “copyright is at war with technology” and
tried to emphasize the notion that there were a whole range of incentives
for creating, including grants and state subsidies. Dr. Jancic described the
reasons for the success of Creative Commons (today there are 350 million
items licensed) and explained how the licensing procedure worked in
practice. “Creative Commons licenses are built on top of copyright law,” she
explained. “They do not exist without copyright law.”

Ofelia Tejerina from the Spanish group Asociación de Internautas, involved
in promoting access to public domain material, insisted on a political
solution for the transference of “public domain” material across borders.

Cay Wesnigk, member of VG Bild-Kunst, considers that the key to a workable
solution is transparency since there is a lack of confidence in the
distribution system that accounts for infringement. Young people, he
believes, are “aware of their moral obligations and realize they are
participating in illegal activities but don’t care”, in other words, there
has been an erosion of trust in the legal system. He proposed a “new
social contract” between artists and audiences.

But Cécile Despringre, director of the Society of Audiovisual Authors, a
group representing the film industry, defended the role of collecting
societies. The “collective management” of copyright is “still the best
system for rewarding creation,” she claimed.

“There is a need for improvement,” she added. “And it is important that we
have a direct analysis of how this can be done. Film-making shouldn’t
directly apply the system used in music. But there is no point in
expecting right-holders to give up on their rights.”

MEP Karima Delli noted that 1.6 billion people worldwide have the means to
copy files. “This is the very basis for a shared culture; the internet
should be the means by which we democratise culture,” she said. “There is no
magic solution. We are going to have to try out new economic
models to fight against the concentration of powers in many commercial
systems applying to cinema and books, etc.”

The experts at the meeting seemed to have reached a consensus over the fact
that the consumers feel that authors should be remunerated and that they
don’t want to give their money to multinational entities. A societal debate
including users and not only representatives of the industry and
rights-holders is also needed. Relying on market forces would be a mistake;
publishers already exert too much force in the realm of culture.

Video recording of the conference

New Business Models Proposed In Debate On EU Culture And Copyright