Tomorrow David Lammy, currently our IP Minister, will host a forum in London on the "economic value" of Intellectual Property with 40 invited participants. He and his team, with the help of the IPO and SABIP, will be seeking to establish "priorities for commissioning economic research on intellectual property". It should be interesting.
Also interesting is the scope of the discussion: it considers such issues as "determinants of patenting in firms", the "value of patents across sectors", "strategic behaviour in the use of intellectual property rights", the "relationship between IPR innovation and economic performance", the "implications of wider factors such as technological and social change..." and "the role, and effectiveness of alternative/complementary potential policies to stimulate innovation."
It is perhaps in these last two areas that the minister's forum can provide some major illumination. As our report (and part two) on digital consumer behaviours and attitudes showed, the debates about IP in the digital realm are being driven from the top down, but influenced from bottom up - by us the users. Issues of value and utility of content online are changing very fast. And, beyond the headline grabbing figures (about which I'll write in some length soon) there are profound questions about the nature of copyright in the era of "free things", the urgent need to investigate new kinds of business models, and the larger discussion about the creative industries and the public domain, that require the impact of us the users to be part of the discussion.
I hope that is the case. But as Rory Cellan-Jones wrote about our report:
This report was meant for the culture minister David Lammy, and feeds into the government's thinking ahead of the Digital Britain report, but it may provide him with little comfort.
So if not comfort, then at least, some food for thought. Here's one idea from the report that Rory picked up on:
For the digital consumer, many file-sharing services are now as big - and as trusted - brands as those of any large, legal corporation. So Limewire or Pirate Bay is seen as offering convenience and good service, just as older consumers might have liked to shop at the Co-Op or get their paper from WH Smith.
Looks like excellent "economic value" from this laptop. The minister has said that up to ten million people download unauthorized copyright/IP protected goods; and we, being naturally more conservative, have pointed to industry figures that claim it is at least seven million. Whatever the number one of the key questions for the Minister and the IPO is the "economic value" of prosecuting all of these people, or of initiating the expensive processes of "three strikes and out" or "turning down the access speeds".
The outcome of this particular forum is much anticipated.