Digital.nyc recently spoke with Bill Rosenblatt, President, GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, to learn more about the coming Copyright and Technology 2017 event on January 24th. For more info or to register for the conference, visit www.copyrightandtechconf.com
Digital.nyc: If you would, tell us about yourself and what you do.
Sure. I run a consulting firm called GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies. We do strategy consulting on digital media with emphasis on business strategy, technology, and copyright. I’m a software engineer by training, I’ve been a book author and editor, and I’ve worked in radio. I got into the copyright field over 20 years ago, when I was working in the publishing industry and there was this emerging thing called the Internet that was going to wreak havoc on our business, so I got asked to investigate what publishers could do about that. Since then I’ve worked with a number of media companies, tech companies, and service providers; I’ve consulted on digital copyright issues to government entities on three continents, contributed to standards initiatives, and served as an expert witness in various lawsuits about digital media and copyright. I am not a lawyer, but I get to play one on TV sometimes.
Back in 2001 I wrote a book about digital rights management (DRM). I started an online newsletter called DRM Watch at that time, which led to my running a conference called Digital Rights Strategies with Jupitermedia. I started the Copyright and Technology blog (copyrightandtechnology.com) in 2009 in order to broaden the scope of discussion beyond DRM, and I started the conference the year after that.
Digital.nyc: How many attendees do you expect for Copyright and Technology 2017? Where do they come from and how would you characterize them?
The idea for the conference is to get lawyers, techies, business people, and policy wonks together in one room to have an intelligent dialogue about copyright issues in the digital age. I did this as a response to the way the conversation was taking place in the late 2000s—which was very polemic and adversarial, the media guys versus the tech guys, each living in their own bubbles. I was inspired by the Future of Music Coalition’s annual Policy Summits, where they forced everyone from indie songwriters to lawyers to techies into the same room.
We do get a variety of people at the conference, between 100 and 150 typically. The attendees tend to come from the music business, publishing, and broadcasting. We get people from many of the major online services, and we get both in-house and private practice attorneys. We offer CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credit through the Copyright Society of the USA. I like to think that our conference is more interesting than a tax law seminar.
Digital.nyc: What can attendees walk away with or how will this event change the conversation around copyright and its relation to technology?
We try to tee up the hot issues of the day and get experts to talk about them, so that everyone walks away with a greater understanding of the issues as well as perspectives on them other than the ones they brought in with them. NYC is a pretty pro-copyright town, but I try to put together balanced sessions. Some of the issues are contentious. For example, we have a panel on transparency and accountability in music royalty processing, and another on the use of DRM in e-book publishing. On the former panel, we’re going to hear about a new group called the Open Music Initiative that’s using a novel, bottom-up type approach to standards for music transaction processing and has many of the big industry players involved. On the latter, we will have a major technical book publisher that decided to stop using DRM, and he’ll explain why they made that decision.
Other sessions deal with cutting-edge technology topics, such as our sessions on the relevance of copyright in virtual reality and on blockchain technology for the music business. Many people see big opportunities to license music, images, and other content into VR experiences, but this is a very new field, so we’ll learn about that. And there are so many startups applying blockchain technology to digital media, but it’s hard to tell what exactly they do, what problems they solve, and how they differ from one another. So I’m going to be putting a diagram of music industry content and money flows up on a whiteboard and inviting several startup people to show where their solution fits.
Digital.nyc: What is the panel or who is the speaker you are most excited about? Tell us about this.
That’s a tough one (I bet everyone you ask this says that). But I’d have to say our keynote speakers. Mike Smith and Rahul Telang are two professors at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. They have done a lot of research on digital copyright infringement (I am not a big fan of the “P-word”) and its economic impact on the media industry. More recently they shifted their focus to the impact of Big Data on the media industry – data on the P-word being just one of many types of data that a media company can use to get information about its audience that can help it to decide what content to develop and how to market it. They just wrote an excellent book called Streaming, Sharing, Stealing that talks about this. It gives many examples of how Big Data analytics has helped media business compete in the digital age—including Netflix and Las Vegas casino companies as well as movie studios, TV networks and so on. The book has tons of real-world examples. They’ll be talking about this at the conference. What I especially like about these guys is that they aren’t trying to sell anyone anything; they are tenured researchers who call it as they see it and have no dog in anyone’s fight. They are fans of content and have done research funded by the MPAA, but they have a few things to say to media companies that they might not want to hear.
Digital.nyc: What sets this conference apart from other tech conferences?
I think a few things. First, as I said before, we get lots of different people who don’t normally interact with one another into the same room – including techies and lawyers, who are analogous to “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” in terms of their typical ways of thinking. There have been a few times when I’ll ask a techie to be on a panel with lawyers (or vice versa), and he’ll ask, “Why do you want me on this panel?” I’ll say some version of “Just trust me,” and the result will be interesting for everybody. There are various conferences about copyright that are purely for lawyers, and there are a couple of conferences about copyright-related tech that are mainly for techies or media business people; we’re the only event that spans all of this territory.
Second, we’re about education and dialog, not commerce. This is consistent with the mission of the Copyright Society of the USA, with whom I’m proud to be partnering for the second year now. We do have a sponsor; this year it’s Digimarc, a provider of digital watermarking technology and anti-P-word solutions for e-books, and I’m very grateful for their support. But they’re there to talk to people too.
Digital.nyc: What is different at this year’s event from prior years?
In terms of the structure and kinds of topics, this year is pretty consistent with previous years. But I’d say this year is heavier on research presentations than in the past. We started that trend last year with a controversial presentation by a couple of researchers at Columbia and Berkeley on content takedown processes under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This year, in addition to Mike Smith and Rahul Telang’s talk, we will also have a presentation of some new peer-reviewed research by a professor at Northeastern University in Boston named Imke Reimers (pronounced like “rhymers”) on the effects of copyright protection techniques on e-book sales. There are various technologies available for curbing infringement, but there’s been precious little credible research on their effectiveness; this is one of the first ever good studies of that.
Digital.nyc: Is there a way for non-attendees to follow the conversation? Twitter handle? Live feed?
Our Twitter handle is going to be #CT2017NYC. (You heard it here first.) The event’s going to be video-recorded by the Copyright Society, but you have to be a member to view the video afterwards.
Original article: Here. Reproduced with permission.