Research Blog Series: Do automated tools foster or deter the promotion of cultural works in the digital economy?

The Research Blog Series continues with Sabine Jacques’ research investigating the correlation between the introduction of algorithms as copyright enforcement mechanisms and the diversity of works enjoyed by the wider public on online platforms.

Project: The impact on cultural diversity of Automated Anti-Piracy Systems as copyright enforcement mechanisms: an empirical study of YouTube’s Content ID digital fingerprinting technology

Investigators: Sabine Jacques, Krzysztof Garstka, Morten Hviid & John Street
Sabine, Morten and John are based at the University of East Anglia while Krzysztof is at the University of Cambridge.

What did your research aim to do?
It aimed at understanding whether there is a correlation between the introduction of algorithms as copyright enforcement mechanisms and the diversity of works enjoyed by the wider public on online platforms. The main objective was to investigate whether automated technological tools foster or deter the promotion of cultural works in the digital economy.

How did you do it?
The first part compares and evaluate the regulatory framework of key jurisdictions: the US and the EU with a focus on the UK. This enables the understanding of the birth and rise of these automated anti-piracy systems as copyright enforcement mechanisms. Furthermore, this part we explain why promoting diversity matters and how it can be achieved by ensuring that freedom of expression is preserved in the online environment. This includes the exercise of freedom of expression of all and not a handful of powerful actors.

The second part constitutes the empirical analysis. By looking at specific platform and a specific type of use, we sought to understand whether online expressions travel equally in a borderless environment and how algorithms as copyright enforcement tools influence the culture enjoyed in a particular society.

What are your key findings?
This research concludes that there is a correlation between the use of algorithms as copyright enforcement mechanisms and the promotion of cultural diversity in a particular society. Based on the current legal framework, platforms have strong incentives to avoid displaying content which might infringe copyright. The implementation of algorithms assists these intermediaries as the design of algorithm is likely to focus on avoiding the display of allegedly infringing content. Hence, there is a risk that these algorithms are over-inclusive. To put it differently, the balance struck by the legislator in copyright legislation is likely to be jeopardised in the online environment.

While part 1 establishes the direction of the effects of algorithms, the empirical analysis provides insight as to the magnitude of these effects. This research establishes an empirical analytical framework on how cultural diversity can be measured in the online environment. The preliminary results demonstrate that cultural expressions do not flow freely in a borderless environment and that there is a modest change in diversity due to the introduction of algorithms. Furthermore, there are important network effects operating on a platform.

Finally, this research demonstrates that promoting a better choice and access to cultural works online and across borders while establishing a fairer and sustainable environment for creators and creative industries requires considering the interplay between copyright, freedom of expression and diversity.

Sabine Jacques speaking at the launch of the CREATe Copyright & Innovation Network

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
This research attracted the attention of academics, EU policy makers, music industry stakeholders and private entities.

Challenges encountered/Lessons learned
The lack of transparency in the functioning of platforms and the volume of works shared continuously on the platform makes it difficult to constitute a meaningful dataset.

The Herfindahl Index and the Effective Number of types are good measures for determining diversity.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
More research on how digital platforms operate and how creative content is created and flows in a borderless environment is needed.

How has your association with CREATe helped to take things forward?
The access to a network of interdisciplinary researchers and industry partners was very valuable. It also helped in the dissemination of findings.

To find out more see the paper available here:

This entry was posted in Blog Book, CREATe Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.