From research, interviews and case analyses conducted over the last year, four overarching observations can be made about the ways in which governments, businesses, and citizens have sought to advance and protect their interests in recent years:
- Government actions to enforce intellectual property or consumer privacy laws continue to meet with mixed success, and the costs often exceed the benefits. The research indicates that many efforts implemented by governments are not financially sustainable, although the results vary widely by country. For example, in some countries “warning models” have proven to be effective while in others they have not. Governments may benefit more by collaborating with businesses and citizens to better understand what policies may be most effective.
- Open development and greater industry collaboration are essential for protecting intellectual property, so that artists and rights owners are fairly compensated while also making their work widely available. Business stakeholders – from content creators, aggregators, and distributors, to rights holders and industry associations – often have disparate and competing interests. The research indicates that more common use and adoption of open-source architectures holds broad benefits for industry and consumers. However, even seemingly “open” technology architectures are often shepherded by companies whose economic interests run counter to true openness, which discourages content creators from embracing those values. The solution is wider adoption of even more open architectures than exist today.
- Protecting consumer privacy and related individual rights is feasible, but the burden falls on digital publishers, data providers and advertisers, and may come at the expense of short-term commercial interests. Consumers want to manage their personal digital data, yet many do not know to what extent industry mines that data for commercial or government purposes. The research indicates that businesses – digital publishers, advertisers and companies that gather personal data and track consumer behaviour – are in the best position to protect individual data. A common platform, one that informs users about what data is taken from them and for what purpose, may facilitate understanding. Some envision a digital “magna carta”, instituted in collaboration with governments, businesses and citizens, that serves to empower consumers to make informed decisions.
- Governments must clarify the tension and trade-offs, and the commensurate risks, between efforts to protect privacy and freedom of expression. Citizens vigorously protect their rights to produce content and to freedom of expression, but may underestimate or fail to anticipate the impact on government interests. For evidence, look no further than the recent anti-Islamic movie “Innocence of Muslims,” and the violence in the Muslim world following its posting to YouTube. Digital content can circulate globally in an instant, and its impact on the citizenry and on national security is almost as immediate. More and better information may help citizens act with greater awareness of potential consequences.