The digital era is posing many challenges for the future of copyright protection, and there is an increasing need for global cooperation in the creative industries. These and other issues came under discussion at the 2nd World Copyright Summit, which took place in Washington, DC on 9 and 10 June 2009.

SAMRO CEO Nicholas Motsatse, was among the 500 global delegates from 55 countries who attended this think-tank, with the theme ‘New Frontiers for Creators in the Marketplace’, which was hosted by CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers).

Motsatse and Mozambican singer/songwriter Lizha James, a board member of Mozambican collecting society SOMAS, ensured that African issues relating to copyright and piracy were placed on the agenda of the international conference.

Top US legislators and CEOs of creative rights organisations around the world brainstormed with industry leaders such as Google, Microsoft, Time Warner and Sony/ATV Music Publishing to map out a way forward and discuss the shape and impact of the new creative, economic, technological and legal environment in which creators operate today.

AFP reports that the summit was characterized by calls for tougher measures and greater international cooperation to crack down on piracy of copyrighted material online.

“During this time of economic turmoil, we must ensure that all copyrighted works, both here and abroad, are protected from online theft and traditional physical piracy,” said US Senator Orrin Hatch. “Appallingly, many people believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free,” Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told delegates.

“Copyright is not a barrier to progress,” said Robin Gibb, CISAC President and member of the legendary Bee Gees music group. “On the contrary, copyright is an incentive to creativity. It is a facilitator of progress, creativity and communication.

“The existence of strong copyright will not stifle the development of the digital utopia which Google and others promise. Copyright will promote such development. Without copyright, you have chaos – and this a far greater barrier to progress.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, discussed the balancing act required to juggle the challenges posed by the digital era while respecting privacy rights and freedom of speech on the Internet. “The digital world brings with it the perils of piracy for content owners, but it also opens new business models and new opportunities for creators to reach consumers,” he pointed out.

Leahy added that when US President Barack Obama announced a new cyber-security initiative recently, he noted some estimates that online intellectual property theft had reached $1 trillion last year. “That is unacceptable,” he said.

Among the topics that came up for discussion was the need to find new revenue streams to finance the creative industries, as well as scenarios for future relationships between rights owners, Internet service providers (ISPs) and digital service providers.

Other prominent speakers at the summit included US film director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and US painter Frank Stella. Songwriter Lamont Dozier (who co-wrote several Motown number one hits for acts such as The Supremes and The Four Tops, and has also penned songs for Phil Collins, Alison Moyet and Simply Red) and musician Feargal Sharkey (co-founder of iconic pop-punk group The Undertones, singer of the hit A Good Heart, and now head of industry group UK Music) were also in attendance.

Talking points: We’d like to hear from the SAMRO community about their views on piracy and copyright protection. Why are African markets such a hotbed of piracy, and what can be done to stamp it out? What role do musicians/composers have to play in ensuring that their intellectual property is protected and respected by consumers? Should artists be proactive and take advantage of the potential new revenue streams and opportunities that the Internet offers?

Do consumers still shy away from viewing piracy – digital or otherwise – as theft? Has enough been done to change and shape attitudes in this regard?