CREATe visit to study the fate of creative work in the platform economy

Posted on    by Friso Bostoen

CREATe visit to study the fate of creative work in the platform economy

By 11 January 2024No Comments

In this blog post Friso Bostoen, Assistant Professor of Competition Law & Digital Regulation, University of Tilburg, reflects on his recent visit at CREATe.

From 8 to 15 November 2023, I visited CREATe with the support of a Writing Incentive Grant from the University of Tilburg. The visit was intended to help me to develop a project titled ‘The Fate of Creative Work in the Platform Economy’. I came to CREATe with two ideas: first, there is no better place for research on creative industries; second, one week should give me enough time to benefit from everyone’s insights. I’ll tell you at the end which idea was right.

I didn’t just know CREATe from its reputation. In February 2023, I had travelled to Glasgow upon invitation of Magali Eben to contribute to a Policy Futures event on ‘Cloud Gaming and App Stores’—a research interest of mine. Back then, I already noticed the unique combination of academic disciplines within CREATe, which hosts not only competition and IP law expertise but also non-legal experts. The event also featured a number of contributors from industry. In a sometimes opaque industry like gaming, their views are invaluable to ‘reality test’ our academic ideas.

The goal of my return to CREATe was to elicit feedback on my developing research project. In short, my project focuses on the value chains in two creative industries: music and gaming. I seek to get a sense of where rents flow to in these industries, what the chokepoints are, and how this setup promotes or limits creative work. Can competition law and related regulation help to restrain rent-seeking and other limiting policies? Would its goal of ‘undistorted competition’ need to be reconsidered to also include redistribution?

To get feedback on my preliminary ideas, the logical thing to do was to send the project around to CREATe affiliates (CREATives?) and ask to have a chat over coffee. I quickly noticed there were so many scholars that had done work relevant to my project that I would be having a lot of coffee. Days were filled to the brim with conversations, which left me intellectually stimulated and overcaffeinated.

For example, I learned a lot from Amy Thomas on authors’ earnings and the role of copyright in the gaming industry; from Arthur Ehlinger on the specific role of Twitch and on collective bargaining in the music industry; from Ula Furgal and press publishers’ rights (spoiler alert: they don’t make an awful lot of sense); from Kenny Barr on music creators’ earnings; from Aline Iramina on the role of the music recommendations algorithms; and the list goes on. All of this information will surely make its way into my project in one way or another.

Friso proudly smiling while standing on top of a snowy mountain, with a verdant landscape in the background.

Over the weekend, I had some time for a classic Scottish achievement: ‘bagging a Munro’. I knew Rossana Ducato from earlier academic events and it just so happened that she was also visiting CREATe (you see, it really is the center of the academic world). Together with some others, we climbed Ben Vorlich, one of the Munros (which are defined as Scottish mountains with an elevation of more than 3.000 feet [914 meters]). My running shoes weren’t exactly suited to the ice and snow of the mountain, but I made it.

The week ended with two events. The first was on game preservation—not a topic I’m very familiar with, but definitely an exciting one. The second was a roundtable on the business of gaming with representatives from gaming companies large and small. This one was particularly informative. It helped me develop a much better understanding of the platform challenges of game developers (remember the Unity debacle)?

Of course, CREATe/the University of Glasgow counts one of the strongest competition law teams of… any place really, with Magali Eben, Konstantinos Stylianou, Stavros Makris, Ayşe Gizem Yaşar (now at LSE but still a fellow) and David Reader (though he was elsewhere while I was there). These amazing academics were my go-to for anything, and gave me a lot to think about (one discussion that continues in my mind is whether generative AI is a disruptive innovation or not).

So, to get back to my initial ideas: CREATe was definitely the best place to develop my project, though one week was not nearly enough time to do so (I’ll have to come back!). Once more, a big thank you to everyone at CREATe, especially Diane McGrattan, the competition law team, and everyone that took the time to discuss with me.