Copyright infrastructure – A recipe for recovery and resilience of the creative sectors

2/2021 5.3.2021
Law concept: Blue Copyright on digital background

Have we made any progress?

Roughly a year ago Finland had just finished its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It was a success in many ways, as Finland was able to position itself as a primus motor of a fair data economy. Also the Stocktaking of progress document on developing the copyright infrastructure was found interesting and useful by EU and non-EU experts and policymakers alike. This was already highlighted in issue 2/2020 of the IPRinfo-magazine. The message conveyed was a call for extensive “information and education campaigns on metadata or infrastructure awareness” within the sectors, and the need for a paradigm shift.

The shift of a paradigm came, however, unsuspectedly from the global COVID-19 pandemic. It forced players in the creative and culture scenes to their knees due to an immediate loss of income and an unpredictable future in particular regarding physical events. A digital transition came over night, but it definitely boosted the interest in a functioning copyright infrastructure for multinational companies.

The work adding to the data capacities of the creative sectors proceeded very well also during the summer and autumn at national level facilitated by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The National copyright infrastructure project runs until 2022 and is supported by a Portal of dialogue in three languages. Subgroups and workshops helped build a network of a hundred experts in infra development. The findings so far are that identities of works and rightholders are critical but that rightholders need funding from the public sector to incentivize development beyond immediate interests of specific industry players. The work to form a Finnish Intellectual Property strategy includes the copyright infrastructure as a means to help digitize the practical operations of the copyright system and enable participation of the creative industries in growth from the data economy. This work will require both cross industry and cross border dialogues.

Therefore, EU and the global action is needed to scale up the scene. Coordinated funding from the EU Recovery and Resilience fund or other EU programmes would ensure the development is lead coherently to solve the common problems of several EU Member States. Furthermore, two hard nuts to crack are the participation of a broad range of actors, big and small and the meaningful co-operation towards common goals.

Copyright infrastructure, small or big C?

The mid term goal was accomplished when the EU Commission IP Action Plan from November 2020 raises attention on a functioning copyright infrastructure. It also contains a definition on what it means. According to a footnote is the “set of rules, technologies and institutions that frame data management practices in the creative industries”. The Commission considers that to facilitate licensing and sharing of IP, there is a need for more transparency on ownership and management of all types of IP. The communication states further that the use of high quality metadata and new technologies such as blockchain could also help achieve more transparency and better rights data management. Better data management will improve authoritative and updated information on right holders, terms and conditions and licensing opportunities.

Still, the Action Plan did not envisage any concrete benefits to creators to incentivize them to take advantage of better quality and management of data. These were included in the Media Action Plan. In the data economy, the efficient re-utilization of information is key, and it is evident that data must be better managed and shared in the content market as well. Building of a data infrastructure contains the same building blocks regardless of the subject matter. The accuracy of work and author information must be verifiable and based on previous experiences there are no single source to provide it. Distributed cloud to edge systems are needed and efficient data sharing technologies that provide data from APIs to anyone who needs it in the ecosystems of a new mix of stakeholders interested in the use of protected content.

Up to now, the copyright infrastructure work has been done exclusively from a soft law point of view to build the data capacities of the creative sectors rather than try to introduce legislation or new institutions.

In order to ensure the European creative sectors will thrive in a global market, they have to get better control of their data. Such services will be available to them as part of mydata services, focusing on the human centric feature of the data economy and adding trust in the ability of individuals to manage their copyright for instance as part of their IP key chains etc.

This autumn the Commission will make its conclusions on action needed on EU level based on the results of the study “Copyright and new technologies: copyright data and artificial intelligence” focusing on lessons learned, and the impact of poor metadata on the rightholders, particularly in economic terms.

Global conversations in sight?

Some quite interesting developments come from WIPO too. They have just distributed a draft report compiling details of voluntary registration, recordation and legal deposit systems worldwide. It was a somewhat surprising finding that a significant number of Member States (68) of 109 had a voluntary copyright registration system or a system recording transfer of rights in place. This aspect and its practical impact has rarely been discussed in WIPO context.

The results of the survey come in a perfect moment, where the pandemic has increased the need to remove any obstacles to access to reliable and up-to-date copyright data. While Finland does not have a voluntary registration system, we have noted the need to increase transparency and trust in the digital environment.

WIPO could have a facilitating role in taking next steps on the international level. Furthermore, while it is positive to increase registration of ownership of IP it is apparent that the various registration and recordation systems of different Member States require more work in view of the needs of the fast evolving digital environment.

The place for this work is not a normative committee but instead WIPO could initiate conversations on the topic, similar to those organized for the impact of artificial intelligence. This way the global community, the governments together with representatives of creative industries and society at large could benefit from work towards common principles on data management (data governance) of the copyright systems. It is important that ongoing work within the creative industries and investments made as well as work on EU level can be taken transparently and efficiently into consideration.

Not without funds

A functioning copyright infrastructure requires also significant investments in quality information and education programs on the use of persistent identifiers but even more so, to finance use cases for technology that allows the building up of services to access reliable and up-to-date copyright data. Governments have been mending in the data infrastructure development in other areas, and there is a reason for it. To ensure an inclusive approach and a more fair market for data and works. Public private partnerships are encouraged by the Finnish Research and Innovation Council, led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

EU funding programs do exist but better services to use them in a coordinated way in Finland and the EU are most welcome as policy guided decisions are required to steer a fast moving train. Common solutions will also relief distress of the creative individuals, freelancers, whose income depend on a level playing field and strong neutral leadership. Could be that the Commission will still need to think about EU level legislation, to ensure development of a framework for a data economy in the creative sectors, and maybe even common EU data spaces in the copyright area. The media data space is already envisaged under the Digital Europe funding programme.