The Global Congress Research Survey: Research Priorities, Part 1

Between July and September, 2013, The American Assembly surveyed members of the ‘Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest’ community to learn more about their research and priorities. We invited responses from anyone who had either been to a Global Congress, been invited, or expressed interest in coming to one–a total of around 600 people.  We received around 90 responses.

While the responses aren’t a representative sample of the community’s views on these issues, they make for interesting reading and are well worth a look for those interested in the intersection of research and IP policymaking.  Broadly speaking, they describe a community focused on understanding how innovation systems for science and culture work, from rights and incentives to enforcement and changing cultural practices.

Rather than attempt a synthesis of the responses, we’ve decided to present this material in two ways.

First, we’re publishing edited and–in some cases–revised responses that offered relatively detailed accounts of the field or specific recommendations for future research. The first of 4-5 installments is below.

The goal isn’t full representation of the community (however one might define it1 or an authoritative list of its priorities, but simply sharing back as many of the detailed suggestions and insights as we can.

If this process is useful to people, we can think about doing it again (and making it better and more inclusive1 ahead of the next Global Congress.  If you didn’t participate but want to share a few paragraphs about research needs,  here’s the place to do so.  If we receive a bunch of new ones, we’ll publish them.

Thanks again to those who participated. Continue reading

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The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 3 of 3: Forget It, Jack, It’s Chinatown

Cross posted on China Law Blog.

Part 1: The Ancient History of the DVD is here.

Part 2: Who Wants What is here.

I won’t pretend any expertise on Hollywood-China film politics, but it does sound like it would make for a fantastic dark comedy.  The story would certainly include the profit-sharing agreements whereby Chinese firms are the overwhelming beneficiaries of Hollywood’s growing popularity.  It would include the endless, conflicted efforts of government distributors and censors to damage the Hollywood golden goose in the name of Chinese culture, by suddenly yanking Hollywood hits out of theaters, releasing them on the same day, or bowdlerizing them into (even more) incoherent messes.  It would include the endless variety of Hollywood efforts to appease these capricious gods, whether by throwing Chinese actors into weird extra scenes for Chinese releases, stripping films of Chinese bad guys, launching joint ventures with Chinese princelings, or—allegedly—paying bribes for valuable exhibition slots, which the SEC is now investigating.  Although some Chinese players probably benefit by keeping Hollywood guessing, one should assume that such privileges will eventually find their price. Continue reading

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The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 2 of 3: What Everyone Wants

Again, this is jointly posted with China Law Blog.

Part 1: ‘The Ancient History of the DVD’ is  here.

Part 3: ‘Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown’ is here.
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Although we initially approached piracy an intellectual property issue, we ended up spending a lot of time on the determinants of price and availability in legal markets, and so on questions of media ownership and market structure.  And when we looked at these, it was clear that the structural issue that mattered most was the extent to which legal and cultural barriers sheltered domestic studios and distributors from Hollywood.  Outside India and China, there were very few successful domestic film industries.  Once vibrant examples—in Europe of course, but also Mexico, Russia, and Japan—had become marginal in their home markets and inconsequential abroad.  There are many reasons for this decline.  Hollywood’s mastery of widely-accessible spectacle is a big part of it, of course.  But so too is the advantage of operating from a rich home market, with stronger investment infrastructure and the ability to amortize production costs.  So too is its much more effective control of the rest of the system, from saturation advertising, to the control or manipulation of distribution networks, to the capture of legislation, trade negotiations and state subsidy programs, to an ability to capitalize on the economic volatility of developing-world economies, which has periodically decimated local film industries.  The Hollywood studios do all of this better than anyone else.  Whether Transformers 4 is any good or not is very unlikely to matter. Continue reading

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The End of Chinese Cultural Exceptionalism? Part 1 of 3: The Ancient History of the DVD

Dan Harris at China Law Blog invited me to write a post about the launch of the Chinese translation of Media Piracy in Emerging Economies.  There is no China chapter in the report, but of course there are numerous China connections and parallels.  Here’s an attempt to explore those connections, in three parts.  Part 1 sets up the pricing argument that will be familiar to MPEE aficionados.

Part 2: What Everyone Wants, gets into film exhibition and market protection.

Part 3: Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown, discusses the politics and future of Hollywood in China.

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Our headline finding is pretty simple: developing-world piracy is driven by high media prices, low incomes, and cheap digital technologies—and has not been significantly impacted by scaled-up enforcement.  This is the sort of statement that’s obvious in most developing countries but that is still off limits in most international IP policy conversations, which are driven by the big copyright trade associations—the MPAA, BSA, IFPI, and so on.  As a result, we have a policy debate focused single-mindedly on strengthening enforcement.  But in our view, if you’re really concerned about piracy, you need to ask which of those other things will change: prices, incomes, or cheap tech?  “Income” is a fine long-term answer in some countries but the realistic short-term answer—the one that rights holders can actually do something about—is “prices.”  Let’s take the example of DVD piracy. Continue reading

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MPEE goes to China

For those of you who have been waiting to read Media Piracy in Emerging Economies in Chinese, we have good news!

We are pleased to release MPEE-Chinese Edition, free for download under a CC license.

We (Joe Karaganis and Jinying Li) will also  be giving public talks at CUHK in Hong Kong and Renmin U in Beijing in mid-June. Details as they become available.

The translation was a major project, and we owe special thanks to Huijia Xie, South China University of Technology, Jinying Li, from Oregon State, and–on the production side–Lijin Zhou from Peking University.

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‘Big Deals’ and Publisher-Library Competition

Andrew Odlyzko has a very interesting draft article on  “Open Access,  Library and Publisher Competition.”  The piece covers a lot of territory, but the core argument that (1) in the digital environment, publishers and libraries compete for the role of access provider to materials; (2)  the publishers/content owners have some important advantages in this match up, including that the libraries are still defending large physical plants; and (3) truly low-cost open access models have developed too slowly to challenge them.  Add piracy and you have something close to the model of the ‘ecology of access’ to educational materials at the center of our current work.

One important point Odlyzko makes is that Harvard’s widely-cited revolt against journal subscription prices last year happened in a context of extensive price discrimination by the publishers.  Elsevier and others charge the Harvards of the world a lot more than they do the U Montanas–or U Capetowns, for that matter–for the same journal bundles.  Obviously they can ill-afford defections at the high end, but one benefit of the strategy has been expanded access at schools with fewer resources.

Protesters, such as those who endorse the boycott [of Elsevier], tend to cite the high profits of commercial publishers, most commonly of Elsevier, the largest one, as injurious to scholarly communication, and unjust, being based on donated labor of academics. They also often complain about the “Big Deals” that large publishers, again with Elsevier in the forefront, force libraries into, cf. [4,11]. In these contracts, which are universally shrouded in secrecy, libraries are forced to accept multi-year commitments with steady price escalation and little flexibility in selecting what journals they get. This has all the obvious disadvantages for libraries and the academic community. However, such discussions almost universally ignore the positive effects of the “Big Deals,” as well as the degree to which those positive effects are key to the main action in scholarly publishing, namely the competition between libraries and publishers. …. Continue reading

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The Curse of Tanya Grotter

Ted Striphas has a great account in The Late Age of Print of the legal battles surrounding unauthorized adaptations of the Harry Potter novels.  All the usual “Media Piracy” elements are in play here: “windowing” practices for massive global hits that make them unavailable for months or years in developing countries.  Extensive local adaptations and commercializations at lower prices.  The zero point of originality determined by who has the most lawyers.  Among the nice touches: a Dutch court splitting hairs over whether Harry Potter was itself a derivative work.

Despite Rowling, Warner Bros., and other authorities’ intensive global efforts to police their coveted Harry Potter copyrights and trademarks, fakery has proven to be endemic to the book series. Consider what China Today calls “The Chinese Harry Potter Epidemic,” or a spate of “Harry Potter read-alikes” circulating in and around the country. These include books like Harry Potter’s Sister, author Serge Brussolo’s book Girl Wizard Peggy Sue, which Chinese publishers retitled and repackaged—apparently without the author’s consent—hoping to cash in on China’s Pottermania. Then there’s The Magic Violin, a novel purportedly written by nine-year-old Bian Jinyang. As with Harry Potter’s Sister, Bian’s publisher attempted to capitalize on the explosive popularity of the Harry Potter series by reissuing the book under the title China’s Harry Potter. Continue reading

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Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities

Post updated 1/22

I thought this would be a Copy Culture week for me but it looks like it will also be a broadband regulation week.  So for those of you coming from this New York Times story about Comcast’s ‘Essentials’ program, which unexpectedly cast me as the main critic, here’s some background and  a few comments

I was part of a group asked by the FCC in 2009 to conduct a qualitative study of barriers to access to broadband in low-income communities.  This was intended to complement the FCC’s phone-survey-based study on access (phone surveys run into difficulties in reporting on low-income and minority populations, and the FCC was rightly concerned about this).  Both studies found that low-income communities were being consistently under served by broadband providers.  Our study also documented a wide array of ISP practices that made maintaining access particularly difficult in those communities, especially bait and switch tactics around pricing and hidden fees.  Continue reading

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Presenting ‘Copy Culture in the US and Germany’

Copy Culture in the US and Germany is a comparative study of digital culture, focusing on media consumption, media acquisition, and attitudes toward copyright enforcement. The study is based on a large-scale phone survey of Americans and Germans in late 2011.

Read/download the full report here.

Get a PDF of the US infographic or the German infographic.

Some core US findings:


And some German ones:

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Canadian Book Pirates

An interesting account of the Canadian side of 19th century trans-Atlantic book piracy (from Rowland Lorimer’s Ultra Libris)

It was routine for [Canadian] booksellers to sell pirated editions of British titles, produced in and imported from the United States, rather than importing from Britain. Like European countries of the time, the United States did not recognize British copyright law. Nor did Britain recognize the copyright laws of other countries, the United States included. The importation of pirated works into the British Empire (i.e., Canada), where U.K. copyright law clearly did hold, was a problematic but prevailing reality. Responding to intense lobbying by booksellers, and wanting some revenue rather than none, in 1847 the British passed the Foreign Reprints Act, which allowed booksellers to import pirated editions of U.K. books for a 12.5 percent tax. This act not only officially sidelined Canadian printers, but also hijacked a significant part of the pre-Confederation market from Canadian distributors of British works. A U.S. company could print and publish U.K. copyright books to be sold in Canada, but a Canadian company, because it was within the British Empire, could not print and publish the same titles…. Continue reading

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