Copyright and Technology Ahead of the Curve

“Why are there no successful European internet companies?” I think that you have heard this question many times, just as I have. What is the answer? Don’t we have enough innovation? Perhaps not enough disruption? Is it the lack of a single language for consumer market? Shortage of IT-skills? Not smart enough entrepreneurs? Too much focus on the consumers? Too little? Actually, it’s none of the above.

Some say there is a conflict of copyright and technology, but the creative sector have often been the first mover in new technologies. At the recent Creativity Works!-event, I was the moderator and also invited to give a speech on this topic. Here it is:

Today’s headline is “Jobs, Growth & Europe’s Digital Future”. Why talk about the digital future at a creative conference? We’re used to the digital future being the domain of technology companies, not the creative industries.

Some say the digital opportunity helps the creative sector. Yes, we know that. The creative sector is a great case for embracing digital. The battle between digital optimists and conservatives is yesterday’s fight. The question is not if we should embrace the digital opportunity. That happened long ago. That is yesterday’s question. Today we want to talk about the future. The creative industries are ahead of the curve. Among the first to go digital. Among the first to get a taste of the problems of digital. And the first to find answers – in new content, new services, new technology and new legal measures. These challenges are coming to other industries now, two decades later: manufacturing. Automotive.

Some say there is a conflict of copyright and technology, but the creative sector have often been the first mover in new technologies.

If you want to learn about digital, look to the creative industries. You came to the right place. If you want messages on why tech companies should not have to pay for content, there are plenty of other events in this city. We’re here to talk about the future, and it’s creative.

If you were to listen to some voices, the most important thing for the digital single market is that there is no regulation – or “light touch”. That’s great if you happen to control the infrastructure, then you can make your own rules. Then you can say “I’m just an intermediary – I have no responsibility for what happens on my system. Anything else would be a violation of freedom of speech and the openness that made the internet so great.” That’s the attitude that brought the digital monocultures we see today. That attitude makes the online world a dangerous place for individuals and businesses. It destroys value and turns a blind eye to human rights. It is often presented as something inevitable, a force of nature. But make no mistake. It is an ideology. Other perspectives exist.

One of last year’s speakers – from the games industry – was talking about his company’s online business after the event, using words like “eco-system” and “creating a space where everyone can prosper”. He could have said “we’re only a technology company”. He didn’t. He saw the bigger picture. He is ahead of the curve.

Policy-makers – when you make the digital single market, don’t look to the ideologies of yesterday. Look to the future. Let the digital single market be about creativity, quality and diversity, not about quantity and niche monopolists. Let Europe’s diversity and culture grow. Let there be diversity in offers, services, expressions, voices, formats, delivery mechanisms, languages, content and ideas. Make sure there is as much as possible every step of the way.

It’s true that technology enables content, but it’s also true that content drives technology. No, I’m not talking about how movies sell broadband plans or how books sell e-readers. It’s much more profound. Arthur C. Clarke described communication satellites in the 30s, decades before the first launch. William Gibson described how the web would work, years before. Jacques Tati showed the “smart home”. The Terminator showed robot soldiers (and debated time travel!). Without literature, without culture, without creativity and imagination, the technology is pointless.

So you came to the right place, the digital future is creative!
(and if you think that makes me biased as a moderator, you’re absolutely right)


This is Netopia’s October Newsletter