Last Thursday over 100 representatives of the
content industries gathered under the auspices of the Alliance for
Intellectual Property in the grand surroundings of the Royal
With contributions from Vince Cable and
Euro-Commissioner Michel Barnier, it was a high-level affair.
Delegates ranged from trade associations (the BVA, BPI, UKIE) to
big brand owners (Hasbro, Estee Lauder, British American Tobacco)
to national and local government representatives. And lawyers. Lots
The Alliance has successfully rebranded itself as
the positive-sounding Alliance For Intellectual Property rather
than its old formulation the Alliance Against IP Theft. Its focus
remains piracy but, on the evidence of Thursday, its agenda is
increasingly broadening to focus on repelling attempts to reform
copyright in Europe.
Coincidentally the issues of piracy and copyright
had been discussed at an ERA board meeting just 24 hours earlier.
No one can doubt the commitment of retailers to the anti-piracy
cause. Through their contributions to PPL and the Industry Trust
and the Alliance, retailers pay well over £1.2m per year on the
fight against piracy.
Given the parlous state of retail finances, that is
a huge sum.
But retailers are not ideologues. They have to be
pragmatists. They want to see value for money for their investment.
Their prime objective is not minimising the activities of pirates,
it is maximising revenues.
Which makes the contrast between the two discussions
all the more interesting.
On Wednesday retailers were fairly unanimous in
their view that copyright in Europe is currently not working, most
notably in the often frustrating, always time consuming and
unnecessarily complicated business of licensing in
There was a strong consensus that piracy could be
effectively reduced if only content owners made it easier to
licence their product.
Contrast that then with the results of the poll of
those gathered at the Royal Society on Thursday. When asked "Which
do you view as having the most important role to play in the battle
against IP infringement online?" the audience comprised mainly of
content owners answered in first place Enforcement (40.7%), second
Education (35.6%) and last of the three options, Availability
This was the exact reverse of the views expressed by
ERA's retailers just the day before.
To be fair, content owners in the entertainment
industry have moderated their approach to enforcement in recent
years. We have seen more emphasis on consumer education and the
days of suing small children seem to be behind
But it does indicate that the first instinct of
content owners is still to rely on enforcement above
The message likely to come from retailers over the
coming months is that a more enlightened approach to licensing and
a cool look at whether existing copyright structures are really fit
for the digital age is likely to be significantly more effective in
maximising the revenues of retailers and content owners