A small anecdote

When I first thought of the term “intellectual property”, my immediate thought was of a friend. She’s an artist, and posts her work on social media, where I try and support her as much as possible by for example, retweeting and sharing her posts. And at this point, even I, a very non-creative person, knows that artists on social media- who are mainly freelancers, making money off of commissions and small jobs- hate reposts of their art. I think every other day I see her retweet something about not reposting creative pieces, and she specifically watermarks and says in the captions “DO NOT REPOST”.

Of course, this is the internet, which thirteen year olds and other stupid people are allowed access to. So, one day, my friend came to me and told me that because of a repost, a potential employer to whom she submitted her portfolio to, was unable to verify that a particular piece of art was by her (this was an older piece and there wasn’t a watermark). A repost without credit to her, “innocently” sharing her art, lost her a potential job. She’d lost ownership over her own work.

 

Commission in push to improve enforcement of intellectual property rights | Science|Business

(Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fsciencebusiness.net%2Fnews%2Fcommission-push-improve-enforcement-intellectual-property-rights&psig=AOvVaw1LK9IUIlBTflGTPtRynbma&ust=1611920662596000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCKD56-DGvu4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD)

 

Intellectual property is also applicable to many other pieces of media, whether or not as a intuitively creative as art. For example:

Patents protect inventors from having their work stolen and/or wrongly credited.

Trade secrets protection allows a company to keep specific information that gives them an advantage against their competitors eg. a recipe for a fast food chain.

Trademarks protect specific catchphrases or logos that make a company distinguishable.

Copyright, of which a lot of creative media falls under, especially software.

Some speculate that by 2030, most (if not all) physical objects will be services instead of products, not unlike how software has transformed. The important difference to note between a service and a product, is that once you buy a product (a piece of media), it’s yours and you can do what you want with it. However, with a service, you pay for usually a limited time in micropayments, to have access to the piece of media. For example, buying a movie on a DVD would make it a product, whereas paying for a Netflix subscription and watching the movie with that would make it a service.

Software as a service (SAAS) wasn’t as new of an idea as I once thought it was, the most notable SAAS business transformation being Adobe introducing “Creative Cloud” in April 2012. Until then, Adobe had been doing quite well financially the move was considered risky at the time. Creative Cloud introduced a flat annual rate for access to different software, as opposed to consumers buying physical disks with the software on and downloading it onto their devices. The transition was as gradual as possible, with Adobe only removing the option to buy traditional software in January 2017. At first, since a significant portion of the consumers were freelancers and hobbyists, who didn’t use some of the software included in Creative Cloud, Adobe then introduced subscriptions for individual software, as well as deals for schools and businesses.

Allegedly, Creative Cloud was more secure as data was stored via the cloud, and encrypted. In their security overview, they state:

“Access to services is based on each user’s unique identification, which means that only users entitled to a service may access it. All data transmissions are encrypted and user generated content (UGC) is encrypted at-rest. As detailed in the Dedicated Encryption Key section below, both transmissions and UGC may be additionally encrypted with a dedicated encryption key.”

With the introduction of subscription services and accounts, came the issues with cloud storage, the most applicable ones being:

Spread of malware (security). With all data being stored on the cloud instead of individual devices, especially with the risk of cloud server farms being the main singular “device” being at threat, it’s easier to spread malware across consumers using the software. Since there’s less physical devices to infect, and with all the software being centrally located somewhere (though perhaps they would have multiple cloud server farms), it puts consumers at risk

Complete trust in the company and yourself (people and machines, privacy and anonymity). There isn’t much of a way to fully verify that the company isn’t taking advantage of you choosing to store you data on their cloud. Trusting that their encryption methods are “good enough” (which is already quite subjective), and making sure you keep your relevant data safe, would prevent this being such a large issue.

Data loss (privacy and anonymity, security). An element of this is trusting the company, but in events such as natural disasters (which has happened to Google and Amazon before), would amplify data loss as the cloud isn’t just storing data for one consumer: it’s storing it for many. Storing server farms in physically secure locations can prevent the possibility of this.

Having said this, Adobe have also stated the benefits of cloud storage, mainly being ease of collaboration with other consumers. For artists, this would be a very key part of the user experience, and so this one benefit could potentially balance or outweigh the risks. On top of this, the benefit of frequent and more efficient upgrades to software saves the hassle of constantly downloading new updates for traditional software, which would increase productivity; something critically important for freelancers.

Moreover, Creative Cloud utilises Digital Rights Management, preventing plagarisation of software and maintaining user control. Features of DRM are quite useful for the creative industry in general for collaboration, for example:

-Preventing users from editing your work

-Setting an expiration date for access on a file

-Preventing users from forwarding and printing work

These features are useful, as it prevents work from being stolen in the process of being shared online- very common in this digital age.

What is SaaS? The Ultimate Guide to Software as a Service | Belighted

(Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbelighted.com%2Fsaas-guide-to-software-as-service&psig=AOvVaw1NueR9u1K9Z4wTBxFAuZQ3&ust=1611923515453000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCPDlxZjRvu4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD)

It’s arguable that a key downside to everything moving to SAAS negatively affects cultural diversity and equality of access as well as employment, mainly because certain services will cause whole industries to be taken over.

“According to the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry, the average amount spent on music in 1999 was $64. But now, there are 96 million subscribers to Spotify alone, which costs $120 a year.” 

“Artists can expect to earn between $0.006 to $0.0084  per stream to the holder of music rights. However, according to some data from Information is Beautiful, it puts that number even lower at $0.00437 per play.”

This decreases cultural diversity, as artists don’t have a money incentive to be creative anymore, so the industry gradually dies out from there being little money circulation. One could say that this doesn’t matter- what good does art, in all forms, bring to the world? Personally I think it provides people an outlet to express themselves as they like, and much of the joy and entertainment you get from living is from art- whether it’s anime (online streaming platforms such as Crunchyroll is subscription based), a book series (Amazon Kindle) or music (Spotify). An obvious advantage is that it’s cheaper for the consumer, but when the cost of this is a loss for the artist, it’s quite outweighed. The creative industry being democratised by technology and redefining of ownership arguably would just make life a lot more boring.

Here's the Aska flying car that could whisk you to work in 2025 - CNET

(Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnet.com%2Fnews%2Faska-flying-car-could-whisk-you-to-work-in-2025%2F&psig=AOvVaw2XNa5FDtbSCB-X3Ml4jKtn&ust=1612007842664000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCPCQ_a2Lwe4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAU)

Creative media probably also won’t be the only thing transforming into a service too. Communication and transport industries may undergo a similar process, with the starting point being cars. While taxis and carpools have been common throughout history already, some predict that with the advancements in AI, self-driving cars may become more common. On top of this, once the industries cater and optimise products for recyclability, reparability and reusability, at that point the transport industry would essentially also collapse because transport has been automated. It’s also likely at that point that this would become so common that the price of taxis and similar services will decrease heavily, as most people would use. Similar to music streaming services however, this shift will mainly benefit the companies running these taxi services, as it’s already starting to.

For example, transport company Uber’s revenues have been consistently increasing after each year, with the exception being 2020 (because covid 19 prevented people using transport).

Uber gross bookings, net revenue, profit and loss

(Source: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/uber-statistics/#6)

Uber driver earnings satisfaction

Compared to the survey detailing driver satisfaction, the mainly neutral reaction with a fair number also answering 1 or 2 could indicate that already, large companies pay their workers less whilst they start earning more. Eventually, this effect would become even more noticeable than it already is, and employment in the entire industry (with more technological developments) would cease. In terms of stakeholders, this is even better for the large companies and consumers, but much worse for workers- similar to how SAAS benefits companies and consumers, but not the producers of media.

Twitter Logo | Twitter logo, Twitter symbols, Symbols

(Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F707980003900231266%2F&psig=AOvVaw0RKygTKxHMpAw2G_Yxcn_3&ust=1612009401064000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCNDq0o6Rwe4CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD)

However, this effect is much less obvious for communications as a service. From my point of view, I’d take communications meaning social media and general communication via account to account or phone number to phone number. Most, if not all, social media is free to download, and it’s quite hard to classify communication as a product; even writing and sending letters could be considered a service, as you have a person in between physically handling the letter, although it could be said that this costs significantly more money than private messaging on Twitter (thus it could be implied that the cost of communication services has actually decreased, as opposed to increased like other services). Social media companies’ main source of profit would be the ads they use, at least on the free version of the site/account. For example not only has Twitter’s net profit been increasing, the graph notes that it only earns money through advertising and data licensing (graph: https://www.statista.com/statistics/274566/twitters-annual-revenue-by-channel/#:~:text=This%20statistic%20provides%20data%20on,dollars%20in%20the%20previous%20year.)

By data licensing, Twitter is allowed to use data posted by users and give feedback to to other companies, in order to help predict consumer trends, for example. Because data is protected by intellectual property rights, a license is required to access it, so companies would pay Twitter to help them with consumer feedback. This helps make Twitter money, whilst also benefitting companies. Combined with the virtually free access to communication for normal users which in comparison to traditional long-distance communication is much cheaper and more efficient, we could infer that communications as a services actually benefits all stakeholders (users, communication companies, and other companies).

 

A conclusion in table format

Industry  Stakeholders  Mainly positive or mainly negative? 
Software  Providing company  +++ 
Users  + 
Creative  Providing company  ++++ 
Artists  —- 
Users  ++ 
Transport  Providing company  +++ 
Workers   
Communications  Providing company  +++ 
Users  +++ 
Other companies  ++ 

 

Sources:

Life in 2030: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/how-life-could-change-2030/ 

Technical aspect of life in 2030: https://www.independent.co.uk/money/why-you-ll-own-nothing-2030-a7582111.html 

Adobe and SAAS: https://medium.com/bigfootcapital/7-lessons-from-adobes-successful-transition-to-saas-d0f7250ab352 

Adobe and SAAS: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-is-the-adobe-creative-cloud-should-you-subscribe-2531651 

How companies optimise profit: https://www.wired.com/story/why-you-cant-download-all-the-streaming-media/ 

What is intellectual property: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/intel1_e.htm#:~:text=Intellectual%20property%20rights%20are%20the,a%20certain%20period%20of%20time. 

Types of intellectual property: https://brewerlong.com/information/business-law/four-types-of-intellectual-property/ 

Intellectual property rights in software: https://freibrunlaw.com/intellectual-property-rights-software-protect/#:~:text=Contact-,Intellectual%20Property%20Rights%20in%20Software%20%E2%80%93%20What%20They,and%20How%20to%20Protect%20Them&text=The%20term%20refers%20to%20a,of%20the%20overall%20ownership%20pie. 

Adobe and security: https://www.adobe.com/content/dam/cc/en/security/pdfs/CCE_security_whitepaper.pdf 

Security issues of cloud storage: https://www.imperva.com/blog/top-10-cloud-security-concerns/ 

Profit per stream on spotify: https://www.timesinternational.net/how-much-can-an-artist-earn-on-spotify/#:~:text=According%20to%20CNBC%2C%20artists%20can,would%20translate%20to%20roughly%20%244.37. 

Escrow: https://www.blog.consultants500.com/legal/software-intellectual-property-know-rights-obligations/ 

DRM: https://digitalguardian.com/blog/what-digital-rights-management 

Uber stats: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/uber-statistics/#6 

 

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