"Not at all," Indrani quickly corrected me. "We work so hard to
create images that are recognizable and define our clients, that
while they are eager for maximum authorized exposure, they also
work tirelessly to prevent unauthorized usage. This protects their
image and our work as well. As a result, we rarely have problems
with unlawful use of our work." That was just the start of the
surprises she had in store for me. Indrani and other artists at the
top of their game, like David Hoffman, noted filmmaker and video
documentarian, seemed far more concerned with getting their art out
there. Indrani spoke most passionately when she discussed why she
loves the digital revolution. "Now I can get our work out there
much faster to a much broader audience than ever before. " She
clearly understands that the value of their work is based on their
ability to draw high quality and quantity audiences. More than
that, the goal for these artists is to create art that is so unique
where copyright almost becomes irrelevant. This concept, that art
can become so unique that can help "protect itself," was another
Surprise No. 2: By releasing control of content so it
can flow freely, artists' rights will be better
Philosophers often judge the moral character of a civilization by
analyzing how they treated their most vulnerable members. Perhaps
in the digital age, this means that we will be judged by how we
disperse knowledge to the planet's most information-poor members.
This is the primary principle that drives Jim Griffin of OneHouse
and who is senior adviser to Warner Music.
Jim (and I admit author's bias on this point) believes that as
in the tradition of Eleanor Roosevelt, knowledge should be
dispersed to anyone willing to learn. Yet, he also recognizes the
equally important need to compensate artists for their work. So how
does he reconcile these seeming mutually exclusive goals?
This was yet another surprise when he said; "The content-owner
industry is one generation behind the content-consuming generation.
If one thinks of content as a product then it runs the risk of
becoming a commodity that is hard to protect no matter how good or
bad copyright laws are. Rather, engineer content to be delivered
and experienced within a service model."
As he explained this insight with me, we shared successful
examples of "content as a service" such as content subscriptions
with multiplatform access points or offer new ways for an audience
to have high-quality interactions with content creators. And
perhaps the best example of this concept comes from independent
music artists who create interesting digital service interactions,
which often include free distribution of their content. By
loosening control, these artists have actually spawned a new
Surprise No. 3: There are good copyright legal models
out there and some are 150 years old!
Again, Jim Griffin from OneHouse ever so patiently explained the
historic perspective of copyright. "In fact," he said, "the way our
current copyright law works now is a blip in time." He explained
that as early as the 1850s, authors recognized the need to be
compensated for their work and they joined together in a collective
to receive royalty payments. The model of shared risk/shared reward
protected all of them from the public readings that threatened all
book sales. They understood there's strength in collective
copyright protection that is far more effective than artists can
achieve protecting themselves one at a time.
This was another "a-ha" moment for me. It made so much sense
that the answer lies in a simpler system where people can be
protected collectively and consumers can access content simpler.
This worked 150 years ago and it also works today such as in the
education segment where content is well organized for reuse and
SoundExchange which allows webcasters to pay one fee to access
So did I discover the silver bullet?
OK, maybe not a single bullet -- but a composite bullet
that marries the idea that content can "protect itself" if it
identifiable enough with the tried and true concept of an actuarial
monetization model where "controlled release" may yield better
protection for artists. I concede the devil is in the details, but
the end result is clear -- a cogent copyright system that applies
simplicity with reality so that the industry can stimulate the
creation of things. This is a copyright system in its most noble
state -- an enabler and a shield. That's something we can all
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior
marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent
Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars
, provides insights on how to create
business value on the internet.