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International Conference on the Creative Industries and Intellectual Property: Day 1
by Sofia Gkiousou
2008-05-23 08:36:24
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It’s one of those rare sunny days in London (well, not really rare now with global warming and everything) and I’m sitting in the Birkbeck Clore Management Centre – in the heart of Bloomsbury, London – watching the proceedings of the Conference on the Creative Industries and Intellectual Property. I also have the honour of presenting a paper in the Conference but more on this nerve racking subject tomorrow when I’ll actually stand up and deliver (?)

It’s been a good first day and some really good discussions have taken place. The best ideas – as ever in these situations – were naturally reserved for the coffee breaks, the cigarette breaks and the dinner after the conference. Of course me being an avid smoker, coffee drinker and with a capacity to eat (almost) anything I got to hear most of them and here are some highlights reserved for the Ovi readers.

The thing I like the most about academic conferences is the variety of the subjects covered. This is not an industry – lead meeting, hence the subjects covered are not just IP rights and how to enforce them, rather they are anything but. Congratulations have to go naturally to Dr. Anna Dempster and Birgitte Andersen for organising the conference and bringing together such and interesting mix of people.

I’ve been blogging about the presentations and naturally all the papers presented are in the conference website – there are however some very interesting concepts that I would like to note here and I am sure that Ovi Readers will be delighted to read about them.

Copyright in the Creative Industries

As you can imagine, this topic more or less dominates the discussion. The policy view came from Dimiter Gantchev of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Switzerland. WIPO’s take is that using the copyright concept brings a number of benefits like clarity in scope and criteria, transforming creative outputs to economic goods and other policy – linked and economic results. The discussion of course becomes heated when the ‘deniers’ of Intellectual Property Rights enter the picture and there have been many chats about the effectiveness of the current legal regime.

Another interesting piece of research by Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz (both of Birkbeck College, University of London, UK) shows that most people who download music tend to also be buying more music – using downloads as a sort of ‘sampling’ service. There certainly seems to be a lot of desire for alternative regimes – or rather alternative applications of property rights and how they work. Irene Cassarino (Politecnico di Torino, Italy) and Wolf Richter (University of Oxford, UK) for example gave the amazing story of A Sward of Angels – an attempt to make a $1 million film using the Internet and a global community of members. The Angels have opted for two types of copyright. If you are a non commercial user you go for a Creative Commons license. If you are a commercial user you negotiate a price with the swarm – the commons.

We had a chat about this with Mr. Gantchev during dinner – I think it was over a glass of Pimms – and he is still skeptical. He thinks the current regime is proven while new proposals have not really been tried out. I asked him though whether if getting some actual legal protection for Creative Commons might make things more certain and investment easier. He seemed unconvinced but I promised to ask him again at whatever conference I see him again. Certainly we need more experience and examples to decide on these issues.

Should we really listen to users?

Yuko Aoyama from Clark University, USA, asked this question to the amazement of most of the audience. You see, most innovation and product design literature tends to underline the importance of the user to successful products. However Prof. Aoyama noted the case of Wii – with which Nintendo completely ignored the traditional gamers and went for a completely new type of console and gaming. Apparently not only the industry but also the users get stuck as well in a dominant design. To break out of the maturity stage and get back to new product innovation we maybe have to stop listening to the users.

Naturally lots of coffee chats were around this suggestion and another very good idea that emerged – I think somewhere between the second cigarette and the next coffee break was that Nintendo made a deliberate attempt to find a new market since the existing one was so saturated. Maybe a good example for other companies to follow in the future then – you never know our grandmothers may represent the market of the future.

The quirky and the wonderful

As it always happens in academic conference there where some lovely presentations that anyone would have a hard time to classify. I feel obliged to mention two of them because the work behind them is serious and they raise some very interesting points – even if I have serious difficulties in putting them in any generalized context – but I guess that’s their charm.

Miika Blinn (Free University of Berlin, Germany) talked about dubbing in the German film market and the persistence of the practice even though it’s such an expensive endeavor. Historically dubbing in Germany was also promoted by the Third Reich in an attempt to “adapt films to the German mentality”. At the time dubbing was used to shield off foreign cultural influences. One of the unintended (or maybe intended?) consequences of dubbing’s prevalent use today is that small and medium production companies have to spend a large part of their budget on dubbing putting them at a major disadvantage against bit studios. What is this really doing to small and independent production of films in Germany?

David Grandadam (Universite Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France) – and don’t tell me that’s not just the most amazing name you ever heard – has done a fascinating piece of work, mapping the relationships and networks of jazz musicians working for the Blue Note label. Even though you would think that taking out the most connected musicians would impact on the connectivity in actuality this has very little impact. It seems that Blue Note musicians were largely familiar with one another. This however could not be possible in rock bands – they don’t change bands and record with each other.

However in Jazz, perhaps because so much of Jazz is based on improvisation work – most musicians have tended to play together one time or another. A very close network emerges and I really wanted to ask him if he feels that this is because of the ‘quirky’ community of jazz or perhaps because to play jazz you really have to be an accomplished musician hence you are well known. Sadly we were quickly going on to a third glass of wine by that time but I promise I will remember to ask tomorrow.

Until then – and if you have any questions or issues you would like me to raise at the conference please leave us a comment or drop us a line.

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