I’m Jeremy Silver, I’m the lead specialist on Creative Industries at the UK Technology Strategy Board. I fly the creative industries flag in all kinds of places and try to divert small amounts of money towards projects that both address creative industries opportunities and encourage cross innovation. We’re interested to address innovation that creates entirely new technological solutions or uses existing technology in entirely new ways. In the last five years we’ve funded over 250 projects to the tune of just over £33 million.
I should also tell you that I spend half my time with Technology Strategy Board and the other half being an entrepreneur. I am Chairman of three small digital media businesses, so I have my feet in the real world. I try to use my real world experience to inform strategy.
TSB has been involved in a very wide range of projects from Meta-data to HyperLocal Media (with NESTA) to digital cross platform content production. I won’t try to describe all of them now as there isn’t time, you can go and find those for yourselves at innovateuk.org
We were asked to come up with what’s our biggest challenge for the creative industries. I have a few ideas. For me, the biggest challenge is how we create the culture which successfully merges the interests of technologists and the interests of rights holders and creatives. If you look at where incoming entrepreneurs are now, and you can see it in where teenagers are now too, they have the answer. The most successful young tech companies are already creating that culture, without any conscious effort, it isn’t a problem for them. The problem is at a higher level, in the larger corporations, in the conflicting business models and in the architectural infrastructure of industry supply chains. Those are the things that are broken and those are the things that policy ends up, rightly or wrongly, trying to fix.
There’s a balance to be found here, between supporting the needs of the incumbents and the economic contribution that they make, trying to ensure reasonably that their value doesn’t subside in the face of disruptive technologies, so dramatically as to damage the economy, plus at the same time trying to open things up to the future. One of the biggest struggles in all of this, is that if you’re a politician or a policy-maker, it’s almost impossible not to be biased towards present, net, economic value. You can always measure that. It’s easy to find the evidence for that. You know that as long as those people can keep on doing their thing – broadly speaking it will work. Whereas, you can never tell what the risky, innovative things are going to be worth. So there’s always that inbuilt conservatism, which is very, very hard to overcome.
So, CREATe is the place to try and overcome some of that inbuilt bias. It’s an opportunity for us to look further out and try to be more positive. In a way there is always a temptation to jump right into the policy debate of the day, but I think the really opportunity here is, rather than try to engage in thorny, noisy issues of the moment (like how to implement the DEA), this institution should regularly try to ask a bit more of the ‘What if?’ questions. “If we just found a way around this problem or if we changed this fundamentally, what would it look like?”
Let’s acknowledge that the rule used to be ‘Thou shalt not’, but in reality the rule is ‘It’s all available’, because guess what, it actually is.
So, I’ve got a few possibilities for you. The fundamental thing for me is copyright reform. Copyright itself is a great concept, but you can’t actually enforce copyright by controlling the right to reproduce anymore. It’s not entirely broken of course. In the b2b world of licensing things are slightly better, just archaic and hampered by poor inconsistent data. In the b2c world though, unauthorised copying will always be available to consumers. It will never be eliminated. So what happens if you can’t guarantee the right of remuneration? I have a possibility that needs to be explored. What if we turned all the lights green? At the moment the licensing and the copyright lights are all red. What if we said, the moment you put something out there, the moment you release or publish your work, it’s available to everybody and everyone can license it and copy it and include it in their services. In such a context, how would we protect that work from abuse and make sure everyone gets paid? How might we enable much more broadly accessible transactional mechanisms? Could we give a creator an opt out, maybe by strengthening their moral rights? How might such a mechanism work? Let’s acknowledge that the rule used to be ‘Thou shalt not’, but in reality the rule is ‘It’s all available’, because guess what, it actually is. Let’s research that, properly, with due concern for the perils of the scenario, but fearlessly in pursuit of opportunities to progress.
Another idea to explore: What if Berne needs updating? Maybe we no longer have a universal right to claim authority or rights over a work unless we actively assert them? Maybe we could only hope to gain those right if we insist on the deposit of new work, complete with its new digital metadata in a Digital Rights Exchange, as Ian Hargreaves has suggested. And what would happen if we encouraged trading on such an exchange? How transparent an industry could we create if we encouraged trading of usage and ownership rights in creative works with prices driven by popularity. That might lead to some very interesting notions of how to achieve cultural value and how that might equate to economic pricing.
There are so many exciting, unthinkable ideas to explore that are beyond the realm of what is at work today, but which could take the creative industries into a new sphere of cultural and economic value. CREATe will, I am sure, make a huge contribution to those explorations.