IFRRO International conference identifies strengths of IFRRO and challenges for the future

The IFRRO World Congress International Conference brought together high-level level experts from within and outside the IFRRO community to exchange views around the theme “At a crossroads: Copyright and Collective Management”.  The Conference was chaired by Tracey Armstrong, Chair of the IFRRO Business Models Forum and CEO at CCC (USA) and featured Francis Gurry, Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) who gave the keynote speech. 

Gurry thanked IFRRO, and especially outgoing IFRRO CEO, Olav Stokkmo, for its engagement in WIPO including capacity building, ABC, TAG and the Levies Surveys and gave an overview of the opportunities and challenges facing copyright as a model for creation, curation, distribution and consumption of creative works.  Digital technologies had brought new opportunities but also challenges due to the easy reproducibility and “non-containability” of works.  Gradually the business response had evolved from the defensive to the positive use of new technology to leverage the opportunities for the copyright model.  He noted the increased recognition of the value of copyright and the creative sectors to the global economy now estimated at 2.2 trillion dollars.  However new technologies also brought disruption to traditional business models.

A key question was where and when legislative intervention should take place.  The WIPO position would be that first the technology should be regarded, followed by the business response and only then should legislative intervention be considered. At WIPO the debate about access vs. protection had translated into the discussion on exceptions and limitations for education and libraries.  It was important that this issue could be brought to a closure. Dr Gurry concluded by appealing to the IFRRO community to provide the best possible contribution to the retention of copyright as the most efficient model for creation, curation, distribution and consumption of creative works by enabling easy, legal access.

Perspectives were also presented from the US by Kevin R. AMER, Senior Counsel for Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Copyright Office and from Europe by Maria Martin-Prat, Head of the Copyright Unit in the European Commission Communications Networks, Content & Technology Directorate General (DG CONNECT).

Mr Amer commented on the recent work to ensure that US law is flexible enough to cope with new technology and still provide the necessary legal certainty. The US Copyright Office had recommended that Congress approved the piloting of a solution based on an ECL framework for large scale digitisation projects.  On the question of exceptions and limitations for libraries, US Copyright office reckoned that the current legislative framework did not sufficiently address the type of uses of the digital age.  He also looked at recent judgements and opinions on whether the use of a work is “transformative”.  He noted that the greater the flexibility of a system the greater the uncertainty.

In a video registered address web, Ms Martin-Prat confirmed that Collective Management was a central element in the Commission’s copyright policy and she believed that the Collective Management Directive would be an essential tool in ensuring that CMOs would be working to 21st century standards.  She highlighted the complex copyright package of a number of Directives and regulations now on the table. These addressed exceptions and limitations, where, in respect of their applicability, it was essential to take into account existing easily available licensing systems, for instance in relation to usages of works in education and the making available of out of commerce works, where the Commission was also working to facilitate licensing with cross-border effect. Lastly she addressed the response to the recent CJEU ruling, where it is important to ensure that the existing systems enabling both authors and publishers to participate in remunerations from exceptions can continue to function.  Martin-Prat concluded by stating her confidence that transparent and professional CMOs would continue to serve the interests of the rightholders.

From the IFRRO point of view there was a discussion on IFRRO’s leadership role as a foundation for the future, with a panel of former Presidents and IFRRO Chairs. Addressing the question of disruption, Tracey Armstrong, Chair IFRRO Business Models Forum and CEO at CCC (USA), underlined the importance of a consumer-oriented innovative approach that did not try to impose permanent solutions but flexible models that were not afraid of failing and adapting.  She identified the strengths that IFRRO brought to navigating and leading in this new disruptive world:
• Willingness to experiment
• Ability to continually shift, innovate and readjust resources.
• Strong relationship and network
IFRRO is about compromise, dialogue and finding solutions among stakeholders.  It builds networks and provides value to its members that are compelling reasons for members to join.  IFRRO is recognised as providing the leadership necessary to create a pro-copyright and pro-collective management agenda which will bring about disruption of its own.  The current IFRRO CEO Olav Stokkmo has embodied the strengths of IFRRO and has provided the drive and vision to establish the high reputation that it rightly deserves.

Tarja Koskinen-Olsson, Former IFRRO Honorary President and IFRRO Chair said that the most significant progress has been made in providing lawful access.  Without that, everything else – good legal framework, efficient enforcement etc., is useless.  IFRRO has earned its reputation as the organisation that can make a difference in three areas; legislation, enforcement and rights management to provide local access.

Magdalena Vinent, Former IFRRO President and CEO at CEDRO (Spain) emphasised the importance of enforcement.  Piracy is a major problem in Spain.  IFRRO’s enforcement initiatives are important.

Tracey concluded that IFRRO has managed to create an inclusive tent that has enable stakeholders to come together to solve problems of collective management.  From the floor perspectives were offered from Africa, the Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific region and Europe.

The Conference wound up with an interview with outgoing IFRRO CEO, Olav Stokkmo who gave his views on the strengths of IFRRO and the possible paths forward. Olav noted that since he had become involved in IFRRO, the copyright atmosphere has gone from positive, through hostile to the present climate of balance.  Now the role of RROs and that of collective management functions in the text and image sector are recognised. This is a primary achievement.

The main challenges are maintaining the relevance of IFRRO to business models and also enhancing and learning from the contributions from the IFRRO members.  It is increasingly important to keep the authors and publishers together and maintain and build networks and relationships.  A major achievement is aligning the Board, the administration and the members in achieving their collective aims.