The ancient pile at the end of Ave Maria Lane which houses that most resplendent of City of London livery companies, the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, rang out last night with the gladsome cries and throaty gurgles of the media market makers toasting the launch of yet another book. But this one is entitled “Copyright in a Digital Age”, and reflects the website contributions to a debate on the subject, convened and wonderfully edited by Trevor Fenwick and Ian Locks, who are owed at the very least a Sung Eucharist in this High Church of Copyright belief. I recommend you read it, either online at, or by ordering it in print from that site. I shall not review it here, in part because I contributed, but I recommend in it a good summary of where we are from Clive Bradley, and a typically thoughtful piece from Mark Bide and Alicia Wise. The other reason why I cannot review it is an increasing impatience with the inability of the media to accept the obvious, or act coherently. Sitting in the open forum after the launch, while listening to James Murdoch (he is in the book too) keynote the issues, I could only speculate about how much of the present media marketplace must disappear in the next decade to allow a networked media world to emerge. Before I sank into a gentle doze, only to be awakened by the chairman reading out the question I had submitted for the panel discussion (thank goodness he did not ask if I had remembered it) I had settled on sixty per cent.

And upon the idea that this is a very simple issue, this copyright thing, or so complex it should be handed over to the Vatican for resolution sometime in the next thousand years. I incline to the former. Here is a point by point take on the issue, specially included for the kindly reader who tells me that this column is “tolerable, even though written in paragraphs”. Here are my points:

* Intellectual property theft is endemic in human society and has been since the first cave drawings.

* Copyright is an invention of the Statute of Anne of 1710, to protect the economic rights of a group of individuals in quite specific circumstances.

* All citizens should be able to assert their ownership of the expression of ideas (though not the ideas themselves) and have the right to ensure that those expressions are limited to media where they can be wholly safe-guarded, should such media have ever existed.

* All citizens have the moral right to be identified with works which they created, and these rights are immutable.

* The internet was created for the active passage of such works – “content” – to places where this material could be utilized. If you do not wish your content to be used in that context, and to drop out of the active use of the network, then you have a right to put your content into the dark web behind a paywall – and risk  it being ignored. Your choice.

* If the answer to the machine lies in the machine, we would all set up implied licensing schemes, charge users a micro-cent per access, give all power to the collection societies and back up our will with a set of international treaties. Maybe we will, and certainly we should, but it sounds like a daunting task to me.

* Meanwhile, most who write originally in the network do so for  reasons other than a flow of micropayments from a network debit card. Reputation, peer esteem, marketing, creating other income flows (like providing content to attach to advertising – as newspapers do in print) are all good reasons for writing on the Web, or in a scholarly journal, or elsewhere.

* Finally, the network lets those who want to do any of these things perfect scope to do them. Customers are seldom wrong, business models almost always are. Study the music industry closely. And remember that is is the customers who will decide in the end, not the producers.

As we left the hall, we were reminded that the UK government has set up yet another enquiry into copyright. Apparently, ministers are appalled to hear that our laws are so tough in the UK that Google could not have been borne amongst these dark, satanic mills. Swords will not sleep nor chariots of fire be doused until this has been corrected (sounds like another sop to the LibDems to me – “give them copyright and we can do what we like in Europe”). But amongst all this classic theological futility, we forget the one thing that is worth protecting. As content becomes more commoditized (eg heavily reproduced and widely available) it is the metadata which tells us what it is, what it relates to, often what it means, where  it came from etc etc. This must be protected. This is where the real network investment is being made. And we are on a value track here. Over time this metadata itself will become more available, and we shall add more value to create new things to protect – the thesauri, taxonomies and ontologies which provide the intelligent adhesive that allows this sea of content to be reshaped and recreated time and again. We did once pass a European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases to accomplish this, though it never got a mention in Ave Maria Lane. I would have raised a glass to that!

Last year I blogged at this time from the MarkLogic Digital Publishing Summit in New York under the heading – the event is held in the splendid Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, scene of so many magic 1930s social moments – “Where debutantes danced”. They very kindly invited me back this year, and I can report that the atmosphere was just the same, and that amongst the host of senior executives, marketeers, designers and architects that made up the 600 registrations for this event, the widespread representation that MarkLogic has in the industry was complemented by some really interesting new players still young to all of this. The debutantes are still dancing.

Chris Anderson led off the first waltz, but he was not there to tell us that the web is dead. In some ways I would have preferred him to be in that mode, since I think some challenging arguments about how we use the internet, and may in the future use mobile networks, arise from this. Instead, he wanted to review his own experiences with Wired and its recent device developments. And there is no doubt that Wired has done beautiful things, or that it has a future in the iPad world. Yet I always pause when I hear anyone (even Chris) re-assuring me that the whole design, as it was in paper, goes into the digital world as one. I think that the day is not far hence when Wired will publish by the article, leaving subscribers to pick the articles they want on publication, and allowing each subscription to download a certain number per annum. Build your own Wired around a custom view and then let some advertizers sponsor a free download may yet be the way forward. But you can do nothing without the metadata to allow you to automatically associate content with interests, and the theme of the day was already emerging here: value in terms of content is not now only (or at all) about proprietory content, but it is all about metadata and mark-up, and the ability to make content face many directions at once on the networks.

From a waltz to a crazy polka: Dave Kellogg’s annual storming of the walls of industry ignorance and isolationism is a pure delight. He is as persuasive on a platform as in his blog, but here he was preaching to the converted. There is now a genuine sense of having moved the media industry dial along a notch. Even if the newspaper and magazine businesses still face real problems, and some book publishers don’t get it, a huge proportion of industry revenues now lie in the services and solutions area, and entertainment itself can increasingly be seen in that light. But Dave’s strength as philosopher – in – ordinary to the data using classes were at their best when he emphasized the issues surrounding ambiguity (all Twain lovers rejoice at the quote which rectifies Rumsfeld and points out that the most dangerous knowledge is “what you know that ain’t so”. And above all, Dave takes us back to the central importance of getting our data right – the revenge of the nerds – before we move to higher levels of re-invention. Starting again in a fresh attempt to understand the different needs of a network customer, it seemed to me as I listened to him, is the real therapy media needs.

This session and the others can be accesses on the MarkLogic website. In the afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking to this audience, and then moderating a panel of such quality that moderation was reduced to trying to get a word in edgewise from time to time to ask a slanted question of my own. Maureen McMahon of Kaplan, Ken Brooks of Cengage, Steve Kotrch of Simon and Schuster and David Aldea of McGraw Hill quite splendidly represented progressive publishing in all its many forms, but these were not starry-eyed idealists, but real publishing operators chasing margin improvement and better customer satisfaction.

At one point I found myself re-emphasizing my conviction that learning processes are all about workflow, and moving content from the static and passive usage to active engagement in the networked life of users became somwhat a theme of the session. Since every conference has a “learning moment” too, then I will share one of mine around the theme of education as workflow. I learnt that there are 5 million students using online courses in the US , and that 25% of all US students take a course online at some point. Then connect that with another stated assertion: US students send 6 texts per hour and average 3339 texts per month. By the time drinks arrived in the Plaza’s wonderful Oak Room (no, 4.30 pm is not too early after a day like this!), I was convinced of one more thing: even if students and parents and educators say they want it they are fibbing: the Humpty Dumpty of the educational textbook cannot be put back together again.

If you set up a conference about re-invention in digital marketplces then it never fades – it just re-iterates through processes of transformation! (

A copy of David’s slides are available on the download page –

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