April 26, 2016

World IP Day 2016 – Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined

Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Sunday evenings with Jon Snow-suspense. Beyoncé’s newest surprise-release album. These are just a few examples of the digital creativity—underpinned by intellectual property (IP) rights—that creates unifying pop-culture moments and many of us feel we could not live without. Today, we celebrate World IP Day and the integral role IP plays in society – promoting innovation and creativity, creating jobs, and fostering economic growth.

On April 26, 1970, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention entered into force as the first modern-era international governing body of intellectual property rights. In 2000, WIPO established World IP Day to raise public awareness and celebrate the role that IP plays in daily life. This year’s theme, Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined, calls into focus the role of the creative community in advancing society through their artistic endeavors.

While the advances of technology have created new opportunities for artists to create and innovate, new technology has also created challenges for the industry. On World IP Day, we recognize the amazing work of those in the creative sector and highlight the need to ensure those working in this sector are properly compensated for their work. Without intellectual property, the artists who record our favorite songs, appear in our primetime television, or perform in Oscar-worthy films would be left without the incentive to keep on creating.

This year’s theme is especially fitting in light of recent news. Truly, sometimes it snows in April. As the world mourns the passing of “the artist formerly known as Prince,” we also honor his memory as the Prince of anti-piracy. Prince was known for many things – a chart-topping musician, a creator, an innovative artist. But he was also a staunch supporter of intellectual property rights, unwavering in his belief that artists should retain ownership of their created works. In the digital age of downloads, Prince was an artist who adamantly believed that protecting the intellectual property rights of an artist were something worth fighting for.

This past weekend, another cultural event brought the world together in front of our screens: the season 6 premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones. While many viewers watched “The Red Woman” legally – in the U.S. HBO even offered cable subscribers access to the usually-premium programming – a million others did not. While this astronomical number of illegal downloads is concerning, it is actually an improvement on the million-and-a-half who watched a pirated version of the season 5 premiere last spring.

HBO went to great lengths this year to secure the content of the “world’s most pirated show.” Even though the network released the show simultaneously in 170 countries, and nixed the practice of providing critics with early-release preview copies, it was still available illegally online hours before the official premiere.

The theft of intellectual property has real consequences. It’s not just the actors and production companies who stand to lose with the rampant theft – it’s the caterers, dry cleaners, special effects coordinators, costume designers, and everyone else who plays a role in bringing an artistic work to fans. And it puts in jeopardy the future innovators and creators that have yet to be discovered.

Today, on World IP Day 2016, let’s recognize the role IP plays in supporting creative content and creating jobs across a variety of stages. And as the audience and consumers of digital content, let’s give the most fitting tribute possible to the Prince of anti-piracy and all creative geniuses: we must all vow to protect intellectual property rights.

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