Roundtable: Free Expression & The Internet

With Michelle Paulson, Sarah Jeong and Dave Willner

Freedom of expression online is a more complicated topic than many people think. Government censorship is one thing, but there’s also the question of how to promote open and diverse speech in a world where the vast majority of communication happens through a handful of proprietary digital platforms. In this roundtable discussion from the 2015 Copia Inaugural Summit, we look at possible answers to this question and examine the implications of digital expression on culture and society.

Roundtable Participants: Michelle Paulson (Senior Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation), Sarah Jeong (Lawyer/Writer), Dave Willner, (Policy, Safety, Privacy & Support, Secret)

This was the original launch post on Techdirt for the Copia Institute, on the first day of our 2015 Inaugural Summit.

A month ago, I gave a little preview of the news that we, the team behind Techdirt, were launching a new think tank and network of innovators called the Copia Institute. That launch is happening today, with our event in San Jose, and I wanted to just provide a short post on why we’re doing this, and why it’s so important.

The word “copia” is Latin for abundance — and over nearly two decades of following, researching and writing about the innovation industries, over and over again, we see that it’s the story of abundance. Of an abundance of information, certainly, but also of the role that abundance plays in everything that we do. Businesses, business models and government policies that were all built for a world of scarcity run into trouble when suddenly plopped into a world of abundance. And we see it happening every day. There are the obvious ones that we talk about all the time around here: music, movies, news and software. But it goes way beyond that. A switch from a world of scarcity to one of abundance is going to impact nearly every other industry as well: manufacturing, finance, healthcare, energy and education among others.

Just as the Gutenberg printing press paved the way for information and ideas to be spread by allowing mass communication, the advent of 3D printing brings the ability for anyone to share design concepts and create physical goods on demand, anywhere. However, intellectual property policies have hindered the 3D printing industry, and increasingly restrictive policies could harm this innovation in unintended ways.

This case study examines the reach and impact of 3D printing, and its implications in the world of copyright, patent and trademark policy.

When it comes to the luxury goods market, we’ve certainly seen a fair amount of disruption. The market was traditionally defined by a small number of very high end players, who had tremendous control over their supply chains all the way down to the retail level. The internet has definitely shaken up that space and created new challenges for the luxury goods market, whether it was in allowing new entrants into the space, or breaking down some of the control over the supply chain and building up viable secondary markets.

The main goal of this report is to look at the internet’s impact on the luxury goods market, and whether or not it’s been beneficial or harmful. What we found is that, even with the global economic problems of the past few years, the luxury goods market is thriving — especially for brands who embraced the internet, digital marketing and innovation.

This report looks at data about the US entertainment industries to get a glimpse into what’s happening around the globe. The basic story certainly remains the same: within the US there has been an explosion in creative output over the past couple of decades. While the nature of the various industries may have changed, the simple, undeniable fact is that there is a cornucopia of amazing new content being produced, consumed, shared and monetized.

For years now, the legacy entertainment industry has been predicting its own demise, claiming that the rise of technology, by enabling easy duplication and sharing — and thus copyright infringement — is destroying their bottom line. If left unchecked, they say, it is not only they that will suffer, but also the content creators, who will be deprived of a means to make a living. And, with artists lacking an incentive to create, no more art will be produced, starving our culture.

It seems obvious to many that this could not possibly be true. This report takes a close look at six key markets: Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Russia and Spain. Not only is the sky not falling, as some would have us believe, but it appears that we’re living through an incredible period of abundance and opportunity, with more people producing more content and more money being made than ever before. As it turns out… The Sky Is Rising!