WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market

20 Apr 2016 - 22 Apr 2016

Geneva, Switzerland

[Update] Read our conference report:

WIPO Conference: The Global Digital Content Market

by Emanuele Sacchetto

The three-day conference on digital innovation in the copyright field took place on 20-22 April 2016, in Geneva. The discussion focused mainly on the tension between increased access to content and a sustainable economic value chain, in particular copyright implications in the digital age; the impact of the digital environment on creators; the role of publishers, producers, and distribution platforms; and digital markets, access, and participation. The heterogeneity of the panels allowed a broad discussion, considering different perspectives.

New technologies have changed completely how people produce music, films, and books, as well as how people purchase and share them.


In the field of music, streaming is disrupting all the classic legal categories in terms of protection and remuneration. Indeed, two consequences came from the use of streaming tools. First, artists complained about the inadequate and unfair distribution of revenue. It was proposed to develop a new streaming model, allowing fans who want to support their favourite musician make sure that what they pay goes directly and only to that artist.

Secondly, the ease with which users can create, download, and distribute music and videos online brings into question the role of the recording industry. It was argued that there is no more need for a centralised service or algorithm to share and promote music. Each artist can do that by themself. A possible developing model was seen in the so-called blockchain system, which allows distributed payments, smart contracts, and decentralised networks.

The main problem is about distribution. The necessity of finding solutions that allow fans and users to share music legally was noted. Panellists underlined the importance of having proper legislation, as well as developing new technical tools to face copyright issues in the digital era, allowing a good balance of interest among the various subjects.


Moving to film, the relevant role of a digital platform in the creation and promotion of films was discussed. It was observed that new young talents have the possibility of creating films and presenting themselves on digital platforms, breaking down the economic and social barriers to entering the entertainment market. The digital era is owned by creative people who experiment with new ways to create and share films. However, developing countries still face the problem of access to funds. Even though digitalisation has lowered the costs of production, many people still cannot access these new technologies.

From the point of view of distribution, people want to see as many films as possible for free. Against this perspective, however, consumers mostly prefer quality content, even if it comes at a price. There is then a need for a better balance of the interests at stake, through the elaboration of a universal regulation, id est a universal licence.

Finally, the extremely important role of social media in the distribution of films was analysed. Through these media, smaller and lesser known films can become popular. They create a new way to connect to the audience, increasing communication and sharing information, critiques, and comments.


The digital era has had an incredible effect also on the publication and distribution of books, as well as on the concept of the book itself. The principal question that arose in this discussion was whether we still need publishers? Indeed, the digital era allows authors to do the work of publishers. However, the publishers replied that this work requires time alongside networking, curating, organising, and structuring abilities, which authors sometimes don’t have. Publishers still play a role in the distribution of books today, but this role has changed. They now have to help authors to take advantage of social media, elaborating new ways to display books. For example, today we can buy books online, as well as at the supermarket. The aim is to reach more consumers, using different supplies. This is the work of publishers today.

A new model of distribution though subscription (like Spotify) was also discussed. Some panellists did not see it as a good model, since readers download only when they really want to read that particular book, while others agreed on this model under certain forms (e.g. a subscription per author).

Finally, the piracy issue was outlined. Piracy today is a really fragmented activity, different in the various areas of publishing. We need to address this issue in a complex way, taking into account all the different interests involved and the various social realities.

To conclude, different solutions were proposed to face these challenges. First, we need regulation to be simpler even though the concept of IP is becoming more complex. Then there is the necessity of balancing access and sustainability of the industry. We need a better distribution of revenue, as well as a legal way to allow consumers to legally access and share digital content. Finally, a clear regulation on the net neutrality issue is necessary to clarify the role of social media and Internet service providers (ISPs) in sharing content.

In order to achieve all these results, the role of international organisations like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is fundamental. It needs to create more forums to share ideas and build partnerships. Paradoxically, in the copyright world, where each creator can keep the control over their work, sharing is the only possible solution to lead copyright into the digital era.

Event announcement

The WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market will be held in Geneva on 20-22 April, 2016. The creative content economy has seen radical change to access and business models for more than a decade. The tensions between increased access and a sustainable economic value chain are the essence of this conference, which will explore:

  • copyright in the digital age
  • the impact of the digital environment on creators
  • the role for publishers, producers and distribution platforms
  • digital markets, access, and participation

Join the discussion with creators and experts from around the world.  Limited space is available for members of the public.  Registration is subject to confirmation that a seat has been assigned to you.

Register to attend


The conference will feature sessions on music, film, broadcasting and publishing, as well as collective management and emerging models and markets.

Music - from vinyl to streaming

The music industry is in a state of flux as it continues to adapt to the digital era. While the digital market is becoming increasingly sophisticated, increases in digital sales have yet to compensate for the decline in sales of physical formats. This is shifting the value chain, changing the career paths of artists and introducing new players into the music industry.

Film - sustaining the film industry in the digital environment

The global film industry is undergoing transformation as traditional distribution channels - such as cinema - continue to expand in some markets while others see a shift to new digital delivery platforms. This is accompanied by a shift in the value chain as digital lowers costs, disrupts traditional business strategies and introduces new opportunities for smaller players.

Broadcasting - new models for connection with the audience

Television and radio broadcasting are undergoing profound changes as we move to a multi device and mobile world.

Publishing - the codex in the digital age

As in other content industries, the delivery, production and consumption models for publishing are changing. Emerging technologies are driving new business models.

Visit the conference website for more information.