Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Digital Rights and Wrongs

This is a live blog of the Art of Digital London event at Sadler’s Wells, London.  If you spot any errors or inaccuracies, please leave us a comment.  Either way, please join the conversation!

Charles Arthur, technology editor at the Guardian is chairing this debate about whether the arts need a digital rights agency.

Panellists: Pete Buckingham (UKFC), Laurance Kaye (Legal specialist), Gavin Starks, Bronac Ferran, Jamie King

What is copyright?  During Peter Gregson’s performance there were a number of things going on, the performance, content from public speeches and Peter made the decision to choose a business model that was entirely around being paid for live performances and nothing else, Laurence Kaye clarifies.

Jamie King presents VoDo.  He talks about Steal This Film, a film he and some friends made in 2006 about the conflict between those who run industries based on restriction and the new paradigm which is unlimited digital copies.

PirateBay swapped their logo out from their website, replacing it with Steal This Film’s logo and in the space of two weeks, they received 2 million downloads for the film.

First time round asked people to donate a dollar, expecting to earn a dollar for each download. Only made around $3000.

Then asked people to donate $5 or $15 for a mystery gift.

They received $30,000!

In addition, they have received a huge amount of free publicity and distribution from radio and TV stations. Because the content is out there, Steal This Film now has an educational arm.

Discovered that no-one else would do it and have set up VoDo which is a project that allows film makers to promote their work on peer-to-peer sites

VoDo – voluntary donations.  If you connect with people with where they are, a proportion of the people will support you.

Let’s not see the capacity to be copied to be subtractive.  It’s additive.  Let’s make a virtue of it.

Use your right to be copied to connect with more people to be copied.  It’s not just about donations.  Sell t-shirts.

Use that as a trail-blazer to allow people to connect with you.

VoDo have connected with Channel 4’s BritDocs.  Every month one of the films uploaded is chosen and published on the network of peer-to-peer distributors lined up.

Charles asks Pete what he thinks about Steal This Film.

A: He thinks it’s a good idea.  It does prove that all content on peer-to-peer content is not illegitimate.  We need to think more intelligently than just the headline positions that are being taken.

Q: Charles asks what is UKFC’s position as far as coming down on illegal downloading.

A: Pete answers that he will respond by looking at from his work which is looking at making content available.

We have to balance a clampdown anti-piracy policy with an availability policy.

A: Bronac adds that there are issues of ownership in relation to public sector sponsored content.  In this era where collaboration is linked to innovation, it’s an opportunity to go with the flow of innovation.

There is a call for consultation on illegal filesharing by a government department.  It is increasingly becoming necessary for the arts to get involved.  Will need to write a measured response so that commercial entities do not prescribe the outcome.

Set up a subscribed resource agency for artists that can advise artists.  It’s an agency that would include academics and lawyers.

A: Charles now invites Gavin Starks to introduce himself

It’s not a problem of rights management it’s about access and demand.  The ecosystem hasn’t changed, it’s got more artists.   You still need a body that manage the different points of the processes – artists creating content, rights licensing.
You still need all those actors, there is a now multiplicity of channels.

Q: Is copyright broken?  Is there an opportunity to fix it?

A: Laurence adds that Creative Commons is a great model.  We need to create a system so that when we think about creation, we think about how things want to be used.

There are already technologies that allow musical works to be tracked even without metadata, Gavin adds.

Jamie King says that Creative Commons is a rosette and nothing more.  It’s a complete failure as a licensing system.

The main question is how do I access this distribution?  It’s not about trying to maintain the old system of rights restriction.  Jamie then goes to add, if you want to prevent something from being shared hide it!  It could theoretically be worth £20 million!

Q: Charles asks Jamie King, what’s your fundamental currency, your scarcity?

A: It’s us!  We sell a huge number of t-shirts.

Pete adds that the model of giving something away and hoping that a relationship develops that generates revenue is not enough for everyone.

Jamie continues and says that the issue is that the Digital Britain report seems to be about maintaining the old regime instead of giving people access to new distribution models.
Now questions from the floor.

Q: Boris from a theatre company would like to know how to make £1 million using Jamie’s model.

A: Jamie responds.   No-one has got that sort of answer for you.  If you can’t make it with £100,000 I can’t help you.

Q: Are there any other business models for earning money when you don’t own the content?

A: Pete answers: this is like the question before, I don’t know how to answer that.   There is almost this practice of groping for a new platform for which copyright is not broken, like making t–shirts.

No-one has the answer, really.  Bronac adds that she has seen a lot of great work that isn’t copyright owned by the Arts Council.

She adds that it is more of an exchange of trust, there can be trusted systems that can be used in this context.

Gavin adds that it’s also about services.   Look at how you would move your industry from products to services.  He says Jamie’s model is a voluntary subscription.

Laurence adds that there is copyright and business models.  The two things go together.  There is also a moral right to being attributed.

Q: How do you view the new archives being built?

A: Charles replies that it is a null question as not all archives are accessible.

Bronac adds that it would be interesting if the Arts Council encouraged organisations to tag content so it could be automatically ‘archived’.

Jamie ends with the point that the peer-to-peer distributors have an archive that is several orders of magnitude more comprehensive than those of the individual person archiving content.

All in all, a pretty intense and interesting session.  We’re pausing for a brief break and then we’ll be on to the implications of ‘Digital Britain’ on the arts, or, what public service content looks like in the digital age.

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2 responses to “Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Digital Rights and Wrongs

  1. Pingback: Art of Digital London – Sadler’s Wells – Comment is Free « The Amb:IT:ion Roadshow Blog

  2. Pingback: Steal This Film? The IP debate rages… « Digital musings

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