Report by CREATe Researcher, Daithí Mac Síthigh (Newcastle University) on the CREATe Panel at the 4th Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, New Delhi, December 2015
The fourth Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest took place in New Delhi during December 2015. For the first time, CREATe was a partner in this event; a four-strong CREATe delegation attended, and led a panel session highlighting aspects of CREATe’s work – ‘Emerging and Existing Business Models in the Creative Industries’. A wide range of CREATe activities and institutions were covered; Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths) spoke on open publishing models and on her experiences with Goldsmiths Press, and Lilian Edwards (Strathclyde) discussed the latest developments regarding the roles and duties of intermediaries in respect of intellectual property law. Smita Kheria (Edinburgh, and who also chaired the panel) highlighted the very extensive empirical work being undertaken as part of her project on Copyright and Creators, including a fascinating set of views on protection, income and priorities expressed by artists, writers and performers. My own paper, emerging out of the Games and Transmedia project, highlighted different legal approaches to the status of video games in copyright law, and how these approaches affect perceptions and preoccupations within the industries and in court decisions.
The conference itself had a number of interesting themes or ‘tracks’, including IP and development, access to medicines, users’ rights, and openness. One of the distinctive features of the Global Congress is that it sees the participation of a number of activist and campaign groups (especially in relation to development issues), alongside academics (especially from the United States) and official bodies (e.g. WIPO). This means that a number of key challenges in the IP field, such as legitimacy, participation in law-making, and the different impacts of international agreements within specific jurisdictions and contexts, run through the sessions. The closing plenary did see some discussion on how to make sense of these issues; in all honesty, this is difficult to do when some see the function of the event as the articulation of a common position, while others are less obviously willing to sign up to an ‘agenda’ or see themselves as part of a ‘movement’. Nonetheless, there was a culture of open debate and it was interesting to see points of theory or principle illustrated by reference to real events, especially those less familiar to or discussed within the literature of UK- and US-based scholars. There was also a real awareness of both the legacy of TRIPS (entering its third decade) and the need to address emerging challenges, such as different forms of negotiation and the salience of IP in international law beyond the trade arena, or the unresolved questions around exhaustion in different national legal systems.
One particularly interesting session was a comparative session on intermediary liability, to which CREATe’s own Lilian Edwards contributed. At one point it seemed that things could get no worse (for the clarity and consistency of law!), as each speaker in succession highlighted both practical and conceptual issues with the schemes for liability and immunity in their respective jurisdictions. A big issue, as I saw it, was the tendency towards mission creep – and the peer learning that seems to take place on different sides of the debate (in light of the transnational nature of some of the enterprises affected). Should the response be a turn towards empirical research? That was certainly the view taken in some other sessions, although the methodological challenges (and questions of access to data) were acknowledged by many. Both questions came together in a fascinating presentation on a developing project on ‘Understanding the Socio-Economic Impact of Copyright in the Digital Economy’ (CODE), with ambitious objectives to map and study the issue across jurisdictions, through a structured questionnaire, resulting in what sounds like a terrific database.