The Global Digital Content Market: Focus on Asia-Pacific

WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market

Focus on Asia-Pacific

Hundreds of delegates – including business, government and creative-industry leaders – attended the 2018 WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market: Focus on Asia-Pacific to discuss the challenges in accommodating easy public access to music, film and other creative works and creators’ abilities to earn a living.

While the digital environment has created enormous opportunities for consumers and creators alike, it has also resulted in massive disruptions to existing business models. The resulting pressures were at the heart of the WIPO’s Conference, which was hosted by India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Videos on demand

November 14 – 15, 2018

Location: New Delhi, India

Conference updates

Opening ceremony

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), New Delhi, opened the Conference.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry

Fundamental changes in the creative content economy have radically disrupted traditional business models across the globe, participants heard at the opening of WIPO’s second Global Digital Content Market Conference, which was hosted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry opened the two-day Conference on November 14, 2018, by thanking its host, India, and stressing the suitability of the venue, given the rise of the digital economy in India and the Asia-Pacific region – the regional focus of the Conference.

Mr. Gurry said the past twenty years have seen a profound change in the landscape, notably how creative content is produced, curated, distributed and consumed, affecting every stage of the value chain in the content industries. He noted that digital platform channels have replaced earlier physical expressions of retail on the distribution level.

“Many of you have witnessed at close hand the profound changes in the landscape, which really have introduced a complete transformation in the way in which content … is created, produced, curated, distributed and ultimately consumed has been completely transformed,” Mr. Gurry said.

Mr. Gurry outlined the challenges in a digital world where the cost of production of creative works is high compared to reproducibility. This, he noted, causes a disjunction between cost of production and cost of reproduction. This has resulted in great evolution of business models, with for instance, the rise of streaming services and other platforms.

The fundamental question arising from this disruption, Mr. Gurry said, is how to sustain the creative industries from an economic point of view within society given that at the heart of production process are creators and the performers. The digital community needs to also address fundamental questions relating to distribution and the huge value gaps between the wealth that is generated by digital platforms and that which is returned to the music industry.

“We can all rejoice in the fact that extremely good progress has been made in general with the creative industries in the digital environment and we are seeing digital sales rising generally,” said Mr. Gurry. However, he said: “We have not yet developed sufficiently the market machinery to support the creative industries in the new environment.”

Mr. Gurry also addressed the questions of governance that are affecting the digital economy and the creative industries. He said laws are important, but that other mechanisms like standards, are important elements in ameliorating governance issues in the digital market. The Conference, he said, will explore what can be done to establish a more efficient digital market globally.

Video: WIPO Director General Francis Gurry

Secretary Ramesh Abhishek

Speaking on behalf of India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Secretary Ramesh Abhishek said his country is committed to advancing the cause of innovation and creativity, as also the protection of intellectual property rights.

“This conference showcases India’s commitment to complete digitization, thereby reiterating our Honorable Prime Minister’s vision of a Digital India. It is thus, an exemplary platform to come together and deliberate upon vital issues and new avenues in the creative industry. This will, in turn, promote and enhance development of IP generating industries even in the digital environment such as publishing, films, music, and gaming, all of which are major contributors to the Indian GDP.”

He said that the creative content economy has witnessed a radical change worldwide to access and business models in the past decade or more. “India too, like other developing nations, is witnessing a radical change in dynamics of business models and is looking to attain great heights as a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.”

Mr. Abhishek said “innovation is indeed a catalyst and an engine for the socio-economic growth of any nation and its industry, especially for India, one of the fastest growing major economies in the world.”

Video: India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Secretary Ramesh Abhishek.

Keynote speech

Sangeet Paul Choudary

In a keynote speech to the Global Digital Market Conference, best-selling author Sangeet Paul Choudary highlighted dramatic shifts in how creative content is produced, distributed and consumed. And he underlined new tensions among platforms, producers and consumers of creative content.

The basis of his talk revolved around the notion that “content needs to be free,” with “free” having different meanings for different parties. To some, free meant without payment and for others it mean free-flowing, he said.

Mr. Choudary said that blocking the free flow of content is contrary to the basic laws digital media. At the same time, monetization of creative content is important and new business models need to be identified.

Mr. Choudary gave an overview of the evolution that has occurred since digitization began to dominate the content industry - from bundling, to new modes of supply and demand and an array of platforms. For example, a music consumer once purchased a full album to acquire a single song, while nowadays platforms allow consumers access a wider, unbundled range of content.

The platform, he said, has become the central organizer of the new digital content market, creating a connection between producer and consumer. These platforms have acquired a unique understanding of consumer needs and tastes, generating recommendations for consumers and then monetizing the result. In many cases, platforms have acquired such a unique understanding of consumer preference that they have also moved into production and even capitalized on artificial intelligence to inform their production and consumer needs.

There have been mixed reactions from the creator’s perspective, he said. Some creators think platforms cause them to lose money, but there is also a widely accepted notion that platforms have democratized access - allowing creators to build a following and create a link with consumers and their fans.

Mr. Chouadary warned, however, that what benefits the platform can hurt the wider creative ecosystem: “Platforms are a new form of colonization,” he said, and benefit from success or failure of the creative industry without taking any risks.

"The way platforms make money and the way they are funded goes against the long term creative value chain,” he said, noting that the fundamental economics of creating content are changing because of the way the platforms work.

Another fundamental issue, he said, is the question of regulation, which should balance interests, ensure proper recompense and hold platforms to account.

  • Interview with Sangeet Paul Choudary. Watch the video Video

Video: Keynote speech by Sangeet Paul Choudary

Special address

Javed Akhtar

In a special address to the Global Digital Content Market Conference, famed poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar, who is also Chairman of the Indian Performing Rights Society, said India's power lies in its creative industry which is truly a national asset.

Mr. Akhtar said technology has become a key asset in the commercialization of music and other creative content but he warned that technology is not being used fairly with respect to creators. While technology is excellent for distribution and reach, its benefits are not reaching the composers/ producers.

But he also noted that the creative industry heavily relies on laws for the protection of their rights. The laws, he said support the exploitation of digital content and need to be updated and ensure fair compensation is given to the makers of exploited content.

Commenting on streaming, Mr. Akhtar said "we have come miles, but have miles to go," noting that streaming has become the primary method of exploiting copyright. Many platforms, he said use the music but do not pay the creators. This should be addressed. "Technology is a master key that can be open many doors...It is up to you whether you want to use it to help someone who has lost their key or become a thief that uses this key mis-appropriately. There is nothing bad with the key itself," he said.

Photo of Javed Akhtar
© WIPO. Photo: Cigma Events Pvt. Ltd

Keynote address

Ajay Prakash Sawhney

In a keynote speech at the conclusion of the Conference on the Global Digital Market: Focus on Asia-Pacific, Mr. Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, outlined India’s efforts to deliver on its promise of a Digital India.

Speaking on the theme of digital inclusion and how the benefits of digital advances can be shared across all levels of society, Mr. Sawhney said the prime objective of Digital India is to take technology to everyone in India, ensuring India.

The Government has been focusing on both access and content in the context of Digital India, with great efforts being made to help people become digitally literate, transformation to e-government and ensuring that the benefits of technology development in this area are enjoyed by everyone.

Mr. Sawhney said progress in widespread connectivity has happened with tremendous movement on affordability with services being among the cheapest in the world.

Furthermore, he said India is making progress in the area of electronics manufacturing, along with its great expertise in software development. “We have seen tremendous growth of R&D,” he said noting that most of the large technology companies in the world have set up global R&D centers in India.

Photo of Ajay Prakash Sawhney
© WIPO. Photo: Cigma Events Pvt. Ltd

Conference closes – Summary of conclusions

Speakers addressing the concluding session of the Conference all welcomed the outcome of two-days of discussions that shed further light on the opportunities and challenges of the digital market.

In summarizing deliberations, Mr. Kevin Fitzgerald, a WIPO Director, highlighted some of the key issues raised during the Conference which was attended by over 400 participants from over 20 countries and a diversity of sectors.

In a keynote speech at the opening of the Conference, best-selling author Sangeet Paul Choudary encouraged creators and producers to think of new ways to obtain value from their content.

In addition, experts from the music industry spoke about how after 15 years of decline, the music industry has seen growth over the past three years. They reminded conference participants that composers and performers are the lifeblood of the industry and are often struggling to obtain what they consider to be a fair share of these growing levels of income.

In a special session, famed Indian poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar, who is also Chairman of the Indian Performing Rights Society, shared his experiences and said the master key of technology is not bad in itself, but it is how we use it which counts.  

In a panel on education publishing, speakers talked about the opportunities offered through the engagement of young people with digital learning and projected into the future about what might happen with virtual reality and augmented reality.  They observed that  business models are far from settled, especially as governments have traditionally funded education publishing in many countries.  

Experts from the film industry talked about how functional new business models have been instrumental in bringing down piracy and discussed how industry/government collaboration could be effective in curbing piracy.  

Public-private partnerships were also evoked in relation to finding solutions to the challenges of digital markets. 

Video: Kevin Fitzgerald's closing summary

Video: Director General comments on the outcome of the Conference.

The creative industries are becoming more and more important and more and more influential throughout the world. There are many challenges that we confront with the digital environment…the key that I would take away from this Conference is the optimism that creators and performers have in the future-  and in the future of the digital environment to deliver accessible content on a broad scale and on a global basis. On the whole, there’s a great future for the creative industries.

Francis Gurry

Program and resources

The Conference featured panel sessions on music, education publishing, broadcasting and digital inclusion.

  • Program PDF, Provisional Program of WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market
  • Speaker profiles PDF, Speaker profiles of WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market
  • Background paper PDF, Background paper on the WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market

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