Trans- Inter- and Cross- Disciplinarity at the 9th EPIP Conference, Brussels

CREATe researcher Kris Erickson at the European Parliament, site of EPIP 2014

CREATe researcher Kris Erickson at the European Parliament, site of EPIP 2014

What do we mean when we speak about interdisciplinarity? For a research centre situated at the cross currents of law, technology, economics and cultural studies, the question is not trivial. This year’s conference of the European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) Association (to which CREATe was invited to present a session) provided an opportunity to think about how scholars operating in this space talk to one another and to a wider policy audience. The event was hosted by the European Commission and the European Parliament, and organized by Georg von Graevenitz (Queen Mary University of London, and CREATe Fellow in Innovation Economics).

Cross-disciplinarity describes the work of translating or communicating the knowledge of one discipline in terms of another. There was certainly evidence of that kind of work at EPIP although there is room for more. For example, two excellent presentations by Geertrui Van Overwalle and Dinusha Mendis addressed the legal implications of 3D printing by translating the socio-technical activities at every step of the design process into the language of law, to locate potential infringement. From the point of view of patents, it turns out that the end consumer bears most of the risk and responsibility at present, although this could change to implicate uploaders and platform intermediaries in the future. On the copyright side, questions revolve around the amount of labour and judgment required to scan or digitise a real object into a copyright-bearing CAD file.

A different type of work which is well-represented at EPIP seeks to translate the effects of changes to patent regulation in economic terms. For example, how does the cost of patent registration translate into larger or fewer numbers of applications, and what does this mean for national innovation and competitiveness? Work in this area is empirical and quantitative – we saw fine examples of rigorous methods and research design by a number of researchers. It would be nice to be able to make connections, both theoretical and empirical, with this kind of work to the creative industries, ranging from advertising to film, publishing to music, fashion to games. Making that happen will require effort from both sides and real interdisciplinarity – communication across and between disciplines.

CREATe sought to inject some of this interdisciplinary thinking during an invited session on copyright enforcement, organised by Martin Kretschmer. Papers from CREATe researchers and partners from the Institute for Information Law (IViR, University of Amsterdam), and the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS, EC Joint Research Centre Sevilla) demonstrated that copyright is equally amenable to empirical investigation as patents, with papers demonstrating innovative quantitative techniques. Steven Watson and Piers Fleming (from a CREATe project at the University of East Anglia) presented their work with colleague Daniel Zizzo which usefully mapped out previous scholarship on file sharing, providing much needed scope and context. I tried to move the debate beyond discussion of unlawful consumption to think about unauthorised re-production and uptake, during my presentation on fangame production methods.

One thing missing from the conference was an overarching response to the provocative theme: Improving Innovation Systems. This could have been an opportunity to exercise trans-disciplinarity, the communication of knowledge of fundamental importance for various disciplines. Certainly, theorising innovation is of great concern to patent regulators but also to scholars of the creative industries and the media.

On 2-3 September 2015, the 10th conference of the EPIP association will be hosted here in Glasgow and the theme is focused on the creative industries. Perhaps this offers us a chance to showcase interdisciplinary work that problematises what we mean when we talk about ‘creativity’. The conference team hopes to build upon the existing strengths of EPIP and offer further opportunities for disciplinary exchange. Please contact us for more information if you wish to become involved. More information can be found about next year’s conference at the EPIP 2015 microsite here.


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