Fight design’s corner

The Creative Industries Forum on intellectual property will need tangible aims and the design industry must have a strong voice for it to make a difference

The recently launched Creative Industries Forum on Intellectual Property brings together leaders from the creative sector and interested Government departments to discuss how best to meet the opportunities and threats that rapid technological developments are generating.

The forum is jointly chaired by Arts Minister Estelle Morris and Lord Sainsbury, and includes representatives from across creative industries, which span design, film, music, publishing and computer games, as well as representatives from Internet service providers, telecoms companies, hardware manufacturers and consumer groups. Design Council chief executive David Kester is among its number, for instance, though it seems to lack expert representation from the legal profession.

The forum will address key issues, such as: strategies for maximising opportunities for the creative industries in a digital environment; business models; education and awareness-raising; challenges such as file-sharing and piracy.

Three working groups are being established to feed into the work of the main forum: piracy, education and communication and business models.

The work of the creative industries significantly contributes to the economic growth of the country, with an increase of 8 per cent per year, according to Design Council figures. The work of the Intellectual Property Forum will represent a significant development in an area crucial to the UK’s future competitiveness – it contributes £54.8 billion to the UK economy, employing 1.9 million people.

However, it is all too easy for it to become just another talking shop. In order for it to succeed it must have a set of achievable objectives and drivers from industry. It will be challenging to develop real joint initiatives across the entire creative sector, as the supply chains differ and existing IP legislation offers varying degrees of protection, depending on the sector to which it is applied.

For example, design infringement is usually undertaken in the business-to-business environment, whereas in the music and film sectors the consumer is a key element of the ‘piracy chain’.

The design industry, in particular, needs to work hard to ensure that its voice is not lost in the current concerns and powerful lobby from the music industry regarding, for example, file-sharing on the internet. It is just as important to ensure the continued protection of designs – especially in the overseas marketplace – which contributes significantly to designers’ earnings.

Anti Copying In Design has been lobbying for the design sector for years and is only too familiar with the difficulties of lobbying Government for change, though a seat on the forum has not yet been finalised for its chief executive Dids McDonald.

McDonald is optimistic that the forum can make a positive difference, as long as it stays relevant to the ‘grassroots problems we face with designers’.

‘There are several striking things the forum ought to look at, from the designers’ perspective,’ says McDonald. ‘The moral disparity between copyright ownership and design right ownership, for example, and [it must] consider how to set up effective financial deterrents. It needs to look at the legislation around the law of unlawful limitation and improve national education on the subject,’ she says.

Organisations like Acid have been active in the UK, and have started to work abroad, but the industry really needs Government support to help protect designs overseas.

The forum could do worse than begin by sharing best practice across the creative sector.

Members of the Creative Industries Forum on Intellectual Property include:

•Mike O’Brien MP, Minister for Trade

•Lord Filkin CBE, Department for Constitutional Affairs

•Eric Nicoli, Music Business Forum

•Debbie Manners, BBC

•John Woodward, UK Film Council

•Hugh Jones, Publishers’ Association

•John Higgins, Intellect UK

•David Kester, Design Council

•Angela Mills Wade, Digital Content Forum

•Anthony Lilley, Magic Lantern

•Nicholas Lansman, Internet Services Providers’ Association

•Dr Stephen Collins, Yahoo!

•Hugh Griffiths, 02

•Dr Rosie Stoakes, Sony Consumer Information Centre

•Phil Evans, Consumers’ Association

•Tim Suter, Ofcom

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