The World Economic Forum is perhaps best known for its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which brings together heads of state, CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies, and assorted other movers and shakers for a week of speeches, panels, and workshops in the Swiss Alps each January. But the Forum also works year-round through its network of over eighty global agenda councils, which address a diverse range of topics including biotechnology, climate change, energy security, and youth unemployment.
Since last year, I’ve been a member of the Forum’s global agenda council on the intellectual property system. We’ve taken a careful look at the forces shaping how people are creating and sharing digital media today, and perhaps even more importantly, what the world of digital media will look like in the coming years. We’ve distilled these down to a set of six digital content “megatrends” that, translated from policy-wonk language into English, are as follows (the unsimplified version is here [PDF]):
- Content distribution models are shifting towards instantaneous, ubiquitous access, often using social networks
- New technologies, big data, and the growth of virtual content are reshaping the creative economy landscape
- The traditional lines between content creators and content consumers are blurring, with consumers playing an increasingly important role in collaborative content creation
- Business models for digital content distribution are changing, with licensing and service-based delivery models replacing traditional sales-based distribution
- Commerce in creative works is increasingly global – but national and regional intellectual property frameworks have yet not caught up with the full range of cross-border content movement enabled by today’s technologies
- Technology is making it easier to modify and redistribute content. The resulting complex chains of “derivative works” provide increased opportunities to capture creativity, but also create challenges to managing copyright.
Many aspects of these trends are obvious. It’s not news to anyone that technology has altered how we create and distribute content, that business models for media distribution have evolved dramatically over the last decade, or that intellectual property laws need to be updated. But articulating the key trends impacting digital media can provide a useful framework for rethinking intellectual property, both at the level of individual companies as well on a national and global scale.
Addressing the many challenges of doing business in a global digital media environment requires not only working effectively within existing intellectual property frameworks, but also helping policymakers identify ways in which those frameworks can be suitably updated. The trends listed above can provide context for conversations serving both of those ends. The result can be a set of intellectual property solutions allowing content creators to reach larger and more engaged audiences, consumers to benefit from increased choice, and the businesses that connect them to broaden the scope of their products and services.