Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions
The session explored how user generated content (UGC) interacts with current copyright legislation and examined challenges currently faced by businesses and other players in the field. Setting the scene, Paolo Lanteri of WIPO mentioned some of the key legal issues to be considered when UGC is analyzed from the perspective of copyright. One of the goals of the session was to discuss whether the current framework, both in terms of norms and technology, is fit for promoting the development of UGC services. As the moderator, Ignasi Guardans, (former politician and current EU consultant and lawyer in Brussels) pointed out, while social media platforms reduce barriers to content creation, they have not yet provided widespread means for individual creators to monetize. Furthermore, these platforms largely depend on advertising as a main revenue stream as opposed to the derivation of revenue from the actual content shared on the platform. The session also explored the relationship between professional content creation and users’ content creation and proposed technical solutions to attach copyright metatdata to content when relevant and facilitate content-sharing.
Nuri Colakoglu of Dogan Media International opened the panel with a discussion of the surge in internet use within the host country, Turkey. He cited that 53% of the Turkish population has access to internet and 78% of those with access use Facebook. Nuri stated that “social media is bursting” in Turkey, and is increasingly used as a “major instrument in democratization”, citing that during the Gezi Protests, 17,000 tweets were made in one minute related to the protests. He built on Ignasi’s point on the difficult of monetizing content in ways that are not dependent on advertising.
Glenn Deen of NBCUniversal addressed the relationship between professional and non-professional forms of content. He pointed out that we are all creators and consumers, and that UGC blurred the divide between consumers of content and creators of content. As professional equipment and publishing tools are available at more attainable prices (e.g., 4k video technology) more consumers can publish professional level content than ever before. As a technologist, Glenn spoke to the importance of technical solutions in supporting the increase of available content. He highlighted a project called The Glass to Glass Internet Ecosystem or GGIE that seeks to bring together technical experts on the many facets of creating and delivering digital content to advance the open standards from the many technical standards organizations that contribute to the creation-discovery and delivery of digital content on the Internet. When Glenn was asked if UGC posed a threat to investment in professional content creation, he stated that there were some forms of content one can only see because of a studio (e.g., Guardians of the Galaxy) that require extremely high-end skills and financing. Thus, there is a way to support professional and non-professional content within the same creative ecosystem.
Sarah Wynn-Williams of Facebook also pointed to the ways UGC and professional content can complement each other, citing that 1/6 of television viewers use social media while watching television. Social media platforms possess powerful demographic data regarding “who is watching what” that is helpful to content creators in understanding their audiences. Sarah also stated that social media platforms reduce the distance between professional and consumers, pointing to Instagram’s recent launch of the Hyperlapse application. Social media enables: 1) lowers barriers (allowing for a more diverse set of creators and large-scale, inexpensive distribution through social media platforms), 2) more relevant and tailored content 3) richer content given more specific demographic data that travels with content.
Closing the panel, Andres Guadamuz of the University of Sussex used the famous “ape selfie” to frame his discussion around the fragmented copyright regime. When the photographer behind the ape selfie attempted to claim rights to it in the United States, he was denied copyright and the photograph was deemed a possession of the public domain. In general, in the United States the criteria to evaluate the originality of a given work are higher than in other parts of the world. Andres hypothesized that if the photographer had argued his case in the European Union, he may have received copyright where his positioning of the camera, and his engineering of the photograph would have constituted original work. Andres stated that our copyright regime, differing significantly across borders, may create barriers for the lawful transfer of content internationally. He postulated that it is quite difficult to modify the current copyright regime through a multi-stakeholder approach given the extreme power gradients between key stakeholders.
Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions
- Clearer and easier-to-apply solutions to some of the issues occurring in the creation, distribution and access of UGC could be found. Notably in the areas of cross-border uses of content, remuneration of different players in the value chain, originality requirement and defenses for re-uses. Proposed solutions include: development of uniform interoperable metadata; new licensing schemes and agreements by stakeholders; changes in copyright legislation focused on clarifying grey areas. Legislative solutions would need to be balanced and neutral to technology and business models.
- Social media platforms reduce barriers to content creation. However, there is a need to develop ways for individual creators to successfully monetize their content through social media platforms in ways other than advertising.
- We should continue to explore and scale technical solutions such as the attachment of metadata to content and the establishment of technical standards organizations, allowing for easier content discovery and delivery.
- A fair and well-functioning approach to UGC is an asset for users, platforms and copyright-holders; both in the developed and developing world.
- Given the fast changes occurring in this area, there is a need to keep monitoring the situation and continue the discussion, among all stakeholders, on how to improve practices, technological standards and regulation.