London Book Fair. 14th April 2015. This event looked at evaluating the internet, what we should demand of it and what creative businesses should expect, via a strong panel, featuring Simon Milner (Policy Director, UK, Middle East & Africa, Facebook), Laurie Kaye (Partner, Publishing & Digital Media, Shoosmiths LLP) and Tony Burke (Deputy General Secretary) Unite and chaired by The Publisher Association’s CEO Richard Mollet.
Our blog covers just their opening remarks, but still has a lot of food for thought on the power of digital in uniting people, the misconceptions of copyright, and connectivity issues inhibiting potential market reach.
“Overall, I feel it’s positive.”
Tony begins, believing that digital is a vast opportunity. “It took unions time to utilise it and realise they could talk directly to members,” he begins, but now 40% who join do so online. It was difficult for many activists to understand, but the publishing side developed very quickly.
Unite use Twitter on an almost hourly basis to get info to members quickly about the industry and union. It allows members to directly contact colleagues in the same company worldwide far easier.
Digital, however, had a vast impact on the printed product. Greetings cards and papers are down, but advertising in marketing is still operating at a higher level than anyone anticipated. Their other issue is that people they have to represent can often misuse Twitter, and that can be difficult, but overall he feels it’s positive.
“Owning and understanding IP is crucial.”
“I’ve been working in digital since the 80s,” explains Laurie. “It’s now a seminal moment for every perspective.” The big opportunity, as he sees it, is the author, individual creators and small business’ potential. Owning and understanding IP (intellectual property) is crucial. It’s an ecosystem, small and big partners can collaborate.
The main threat is that we don’t invest enough in creating infrastructure in Tech, instead focusing on often inflated issues. We should be investing in facilitating high volume copyright transactions, skills, creating the right business model. There is no right answer to downloading vs. streaming, for example, but no one has yet to find the definitive model.
He feels that often people are looking for solutions to non-existent problems, and often misunderstand things like copyright. He takes this as an example of misconceptions:
- It locks ideas and inhibits creativity and sharing.
- The US is more liberal and progressive.
- Physical copyright is territorial, where the internet is global. They can’t adapt.
- Management of it is too complex in the digital world (he concedes this one is fair, but there are solutions).
“I don’t think we do enough to value and protect intellectual property,” he concludes.
“We see creative individuals as key to the community of Facebook.”
Simon agrees with many of the points raised so far, but instead wants to focus on his concerns, especially given the unprecedented plethora of publishers using Facebook. They are:
- Connectivity – we’re limited by the number of people online. 3bn people are online, which isn’t even half of the world’s population. There is good scope to work with people in publishing here.
- Censorship – worrying developments in governments restricting speech. In all cases, Facebook remain “committed to providing the most speech for the most people.”
- Reach for regulatory toolkit – Concern of government’s lack of understanding, will set industries at loggerheads.
“We won’t always get along,” Simon says, in working with publishers. “But we will benefit from each other.” He feels that the government’s regulation responses will create a “cultivated clash between us and other industries.”
As a closing point, we return to Simon’s talk of connectivity: “Imagine,” he says, “what you could achieve if everyone in the world was online?”