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Financial services IP is focus of July conference in NYC; IPCU readers receive a $200 discount

FinTech, blockchain, cybercrime – intellectual property for the financial services industry today requires a balance of emerging technologies and rights, including patents and trade secrets. 

On July 24-25 in New York World Congress is holding the 16th annual “Protecting Innovations in the Financial Services Industry.” It will be convened at the Intercontinental Barclay, between Park and Lexington Avenues.

Speakers include USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, Microsoft Chief IP Counsel, Erich Andersen (pictured) and IP executives from American Express, MasterCard and Wells Fargo.

Hon. Joy Flowers Conti, Chief Judge United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania, also will present.

Program highlights include:

  • Discuss implications of the USPTOs recently announced guidance for subject matter eligibility under Section 101
  • Assess the impact of the revised guidance on Federal Court cases
  • Determine patentability of AI and blockchain technologies: Gain strategies to overcome patent eligibility rejection
  • Explore innovations in FinTech and their impact on financial services IP
  • Hear updates on CBM and IPR proceedings
  • Foster a culture of innovation and strengthen the IP ecosystem

 

For the full program, go here.

For the list of speakers, here.

To register, go here. IP CloseUp readers receive a $200 discount by including conference code, CLOSEUP.

 

Image source: worldcongress.com

 

‘Copyright is for losers,’ says street artist, Banksy; some trademarks not

Ubiquitous yet unknown, UK street artist, Banksy, not a fan of copyright protection, has resorted to the trademark law to stop unauthorized sale of his work in Italy. 

Banksy’s company, Pest Control, sued an Italian company for “selling unauthorized merchandise in connection to an art exhibition. In a provisional ruling, a court in Milan has ordered the company to stop selling the merchandise at hand.”

Banksy’s satiric images are among the most recognizable in the world, and he is among the most infamous artists, yet his identify is unknown. He has said that “copyright is for losers.” The Italian matter was the first time he had enforced his trademarks, perhaps not because of the lost income, as much as to maintain control and prevent over-commercialization.

That his company, Pest Control, sued a museum gift shop may not be an accident. ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ Banksy’s 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary about street artists and how they work, not only illuminated their challenges but elevated the importance of their work. Some believe that the non-fiction film is hoax, or at best a staging, designed to perpetuate Banksy’s mystique.

Questionable IP Strategy

“What is most interesting about this [trademark] matter, writes Vittoria Romano an Australian lawyer on Lexology, “that in concealing his identity, Banksy limits his ability to enforce Copyright.

“Further, his deliberate opposition to using his brand in market puts him at risk of failing to show use. It seems the Pest Control team need to work on an IP strategy moving forward in order to protect the commercial side of his art, even if that is considered to go against his anti-establishment messages.”

Watch Banksy’s $1.2 million ‘Balloon Girl’ Self-Destruct at Sotheby’s in London

 

Prankster or Profit?

“Banksy’s painting of a girl and a balloon, which began shredding itself moments after it sold at auction, for $1.4 million, in London on Friday night, remains to be seen,” wrote art critic Andrea K. Scott in The New Yorker.

“Sotheby’s hasn’t disclosed the buyer’s identity. (Such opacity is business as usual in the art market.) If this person was shelling out for love of the image alone, I would suggest picking up a replacement at Target, where a print version is currently on sale for $36.79, down from forty-six dollars. But, if the painting was purchased as an investment, the buyer might as well follow through.

“The picture’s destruction, like that of Tinguely’s machine, was halted before the job was complete, and there is already speculation that the work in damaged form will become even more valuable than it was before. If the stunt was intended to mock the spectacle of art being reduced to a price tag, the joke might be on Banksy.

“But since it was clearly also a bid for more notoriety—for an artist bent on maintaining anonymity, Banksy does not shy away from the limelight—a cynic might call this is his best art work yet. Since Sunday, the spectacle [see video above] has been viewed nearly nine million times, in a video that Banksy posted to Instagram.” [His page is worth viewing.]

Experts speculated that the price of the shredded ‘Balloon Girl’ increased some 50% or $700K immediately upon partial destruction.

Banksy encourages us to regard vacant spaces and familiar images in humorous ways, and not to take art or ourselves too seriously.

For The New Yorker piece, go here.

The Pest Control website is chuckle-worthy, especially “What is Pest Control?”

 

Images source: marinimacuna.com; thetimes.co.uk; theverge.com; wemp.app

Video: IP leaders provide their take on the importance of IP rights at Columbia Journalism School event

IP executives, experts and owners from leading businesses and organizations gathered at Columbia University’s School of Journalism late last year at the IP Awareness Summit (IPAS) to identify ways of improving IP literacy.

There responses to why should IP taken seriously and taught in schools has been made into a video produced by London-based Ideas Matters.

The respondents included United States Patent and Trademark Office Director, Andrei Iancu, IBM Chief Patent Counsel, Manny Schecter, and Brian Hinman of Aon IP Solutions, formerly head of IP business at Philips, Verizon and IBM, and founder of Allied Security Trust and Unified Patents.

Also conveying their perspective were Maysa Razavi, Manager, Anti-Counterfeiting, the International Trademark Association (INTA), Scott Frank, CEO, AT&T IP, Professor Ruth Soetendorp, Professor Emeritus, Bournemouth University and former chair of the IP Awareness Network (IPAN) and Adam Mossoff, Professor of Law at George Mason and founder of the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property.

To access the Center for IP Understanding (CIPU) YouTube Channel, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZk165UL2V8fNiJjVcQtnmQ

IPAS 2018 was held by the Center for IP Understanding in conjunction with Columbia Technology Ventures and other partners at the Columbia School of Journalism. More 125 IP owners, organizations, educators, creators and investors attended.

Scott Frank, President & CEO, AT&T IP

 

Image source: CIPU/understandingip.org

 

Trade Secrets: “What People Need to Know” — Sen. Coons, IP experts, scheduled to speak May 29

Trade secrets, or know-how, frequently in the news, are simultaneously among intellectual property’s most valuable and misunderstood rights.

A luncheon briefing designed to put these essential rights into clearer perspective will be held at United States Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington on May 29 – “Understanding the Secret to Trade Secrets: What People Need to Know Today.”

The briefing is being hosted by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) in conjunction with the Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC).

The event will clarify (1) what trade secrets are, (2) why they are more important now, (3) how they are used and (4) their impact on innovation, competition and trade.

Panel coverage includes:

  • Trade secrets’ role in promoting commerce and security
  • The hidden value of “negative” know-how
  • How trade secrets compliment patents and trademarks; their drawbacks
  • U.S., China and trade secrets today

In additional to Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Vice-Chairman, Select Committee on Ethics and proponent of IP rights, speakers will include

  • F. Scott Kieff (U.S. International Trade Commission chief, 2013-2017)
  • James Pooley (Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, 2009-2014)
  • Brian Hinman (Aon IP Solutions; former Chief IP Executive, Philips and Verizon, and head of licensing at IBM)

“Trade secrets, or know-how, frequently comprise the most valuable part of a businesses’ IP portfolio,” says Marshall Phelps, former Vice President of IP Business and Strategy at Microsoft and IBM, and a member CIPU’s board of directors.

“Trade secrets can be as important as patents or trademarks. Despite the news coverage regarding IP and China, little known about how know-how works in practice.”

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) brought trade secret misappropriation under federal jurisdiction.

For the briefing agenda, go here.

To request an invitation, write registration@understandingip.org. Registration is free, but space is limited.

Image source: CIPU; foodsafetynews.com; GIPC

“IP impacts everyone” – Two-minute video explains “why?”

What is intellectual property? Why should I care?

These questions are frequently considered – if not asked – by a range of people of all ages, incomes and education levels.

Products of the mind (inventions, creative works, etc.) and the rights that protect them can be complex. But the answer to “why IP?” is simpler than many people would think – jobs, competition, prosperity, as well as culture and quality of life. IP helped to make American and other nations great and will continue to, if we permit it.

The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) recently produced a white board video that explains in a few words and images why and to whom IP is relevant. The video (below) is suitable for a wide range of audiences.

“Intellectual property is the foundation for the future,” said Bruce Berman, founder and chairman of CIPU, an independent non-profit focused on increasing awareness of IP rights and their impact on people’s’ lives. “IP rights are a bridge that enables freedom, as opposed to a legal requirement that inhibits it. Lack of understanding make it difficult for people to see it that way. Early awareness and education help. It is never too late, or early, for anyone to learn why IP maters.”

There are many animations available that explain IP’s importance to children, but employees, investors, teens, law enforcement professionals, parents and educators, too, need help understanding IP’s role and history.

 


IP is for Everyone

There are many animations available that explain IP’s importance to children, but employees, investors, teens, law enforcement professionals, parents and educators, too, need help understanding IP’s role and history. “What is intellectual property? Why should I care?” endeavors to help.

To learn more about IP or identify materials and activities right for different audiences, please contact CIPU at administration@understandingip.org

For a link to the the IP CloseUp YouTube Channel that can be shared, go here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZk165UL2V8fNiJjVcQtnmQ

 

 

Image source: understandingip.org; the Center for IP Understanding 

Inventor who said $17M is the real cost of obtaining his patent, wins $24.5M suit

How much does it cost to obtain and use a U.S. patent? The depends who you ask.

The price to obtain an invention right can range from $6,000 for a very basic one with few claims to $50,000 of more for a more complex application that requires significant back and forth with the Patent Office.

A successful inventor, Josh Malone, creator of Bunch O Balloons, says the true cost of obtaining his patent and using it to defend his invention has been $17 million, thus far, and it could easily grow to $50 million. (For Malone’s reasoning, go here.)

Bunch O Balloons, a consumer product that can fill 100 water balloons in 60 seconds, has had to defend itself against TeleBrands Corp, which has repeatedly infringed it with different businesses over a period of years.

Last week, Bunch of Balloons, originally a crowd-funded company, won a $24.5 million patent suit against TeleBrands Corp.  $4.75 million was added for attorney’s fees.

The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,242,749 and 9,315,282.

Makeover?

Jay Walker, founder of Priceline.com, one of the most prolific US inventors, has called the U.S. Patent System dysfunctional and is in need of a major makeover. Not all patent holders would agree, but for many inventors, the cards are increasingly stacked against them. (Hear the audio file of Walker’s speech about the patent system at the 2018 IP Awareness Summit at Columbia University.)

At the heart of the problem is uncertainty about what can, in fact, be patented and licensed. Patents in new areas of invention or art can be overly ambitious. Some may be too broadly drawn and claim more than the invention covers in hopes of keeping others from doing something similar.

In an over-reaction to that possibility lawmakers and courts have made it difficult to rely on many patents, despite the extensive examination process they go through. As a result, many issued patents are, in effect, still applications.

Uncertainty

There is little agreement on an acceptable level of uncertainty. If virtually any patent issued that is enforced can be routinely challenged, what is the point of issuing it in the first place?

Critics say that an inventor should not be able to claim what can amount to an entire industry, as opposed being granted a patent on a specific invention. The patent office often does not realize it may be granting rights too broadly.

Image source: wgno.com; ipwatchdog.com

 

 

 

Taking PIPCOs private – rethinking public IP (patent licensing) companies

The shares of most publicly traded companies that rely primarily on patent licensing, litigation settlements or damages awards for revenue have fared poorly compared to key market indexes, like the S&P 500. 

Whether or the not the market is valuing these companies’ shares and their complex assets fairly is less the issue than the viability of patent licensing as a public company business model. Remember, PIPCOs are not synonymous with patent licensing — a PIPCO (public intellectual property company), a term this reporter coined in 2013, can be brand-based, content-focused or not even license its IP rights.

PIPCOs are nothing more than IP-centric companies that trade publicly and that investors need to appreciate for their intangible assets.

PIPCOs, as we know them, are in need of a reboot – call it PICPO 2.0.  In the March-April IAM magazine the Intangible Investor looks at “IP Investing Today – What you need to know.”

IP CloseUp recently updated and expanded the IP CloseUp 30 to the IP CloseUp 50, a more diverse range of IP-centric companies. The best-of-the-best performing patent licensing companies, typically non-practicing entities, are still included, but so are brands like Nike and content providers like News Corporation and tech stalwarts like Apple.

Check out the IP CloseUp 50 here. Bookmark it if you want a real-time snap-shot of these IP players on your phone or computer.

Changing Perspective

When inventors and NPEs were grabbing headlines with damages awards – some in the hundreds of millions of dollars – it was easy for some investors to believe patent infringement would translate into PIPCO performance. It was not so easy.

Settle a dispute or close a deal and the impact could be readily discerned on small company’s balance sheet and in its share price. If a company’s market capitalization was under $100M dollars the results would be magnified. Twists and turns in the course of litigation were trading opportunities, so thought many investors.

Larger PIPCOs Have Fared Better (see 2014 Graph Below)

For large IP-rich businesses – those with patent portfolios like pharmaceutical and tech companies, brands and content providers – it is more difficult to measure the impact of their IP rights and specific IP-related transactions on performance and shareholder value. Their complexity made them less interesting to short-term IP investors until the results were observed over time.

RPX Turnaround

Dan McCurdy, RPX’s current president, told IAM recently about the benefits that de-listing the company’s shares had brought.

“We have done more transactions than in any other six months in the company’s history,” McCurdy said. “We have syndicated more dollars than in any other six-month period; and we have concluded approximately 40 transactions across all eight of our market sectors.” The momentum said the former ThinkFire CEO and AST Chairman, was the result of the increased focus and flexibility that being a private company had allowed.

“There is a level of creativity that has been unleashed thanks to our new status,” he concluded.

Some six years ago, in the patent licensing company heyday, RPX’s share price was over $40, after going public in 2011 at $19 per share, and its market cap was around $1 billion.

Time and Money

Finjan is among the more successful PIPCOs, with products in the cybersecurity. The Silicon Valley company’s President Phil Hartstein said at a conference that it was considering going private.

He explained that “despite our repeated success at the PTAB, several valuable settlements and licenses over the past five years, and the growth of our operating business, our stock price has remained essentially unchanged in what had been a bull market for technology.”

With approximately half of Hartstein’s time consumed with shareholders and public ownership, he says, it may be time to reassess priorities.

Companies like Marathon, CopyTele/ITUS, Inventergy, Sepheris, DSS, Single Touch, CopyTele (ITUS), MGT Capital and Prism Technologies Group have either engaged in reverse-splits, merged or been de-listed. Several, like Tessera (Xperi) and Quarterhill (WiLAN) have changed their name and are hanging tough.

Some of the larger players, such as InterDigital and Universal Display Corporation have performed reasonably well in what until recently had been a bull market. It remains to be seen how they will perform in a less kindly environment, but their size and success can help them surmount obstacles the smaller players cannot.

Image source: gilmartinir.com; lake street capital

$300 discount on IP Business Congress Boston for IPCU readers

The IP Business Congress Global, among intellectual property’s premier annual events, is providing a large segment of IP CloseUp readers a registration break for the upcoming event, June 16-18, at the Westin Waterfront in Boston.

This year’s IPBC Global program features over 70 speakers, more than 650 attendees and twelve hours of networking time.

Speakers include Erich Andersen, Microsoft; Paul Coletti, Johnson & Johnson; Jako Eleveld, Royal Philips; Juan C. Gonzalez, Mastercard; John Mulgrew, Uber Technologies; Michael Lee, Google; David Pridham, Dominion Harbor; Terry Rea, USPTO; Karen A. Sinclair, Harvard University; Wayne Sobon, Juul Labs; Maria Varsellona, Nokia; and Gilbert Wong, Facebook. HP and Ericsson also will be presenting.

Sessions include:

  • IP in the 5G era
  • Women in deal making
  • Insider the 21st Century IP team
  • Five years on from Alice
  • The investors’ perspective
  • Insider the global IP market
  • Blockchain in focus

By using the registration code, IPCU300, IPCU readers can save $300. The discount cannot be redeemed by IP service providers, as the service provider quota for IPBC Global has been reached.

For the entire speaker list, go here.

For the IPBC Global 2019 program, go here.

For an attendee break down, here.

To register, please visit go this this link.

 

Image source: ipbc.com; facebook: westinbostonwaterfront

Bridging the Gap Between IP Awareness and Understanding – A response to IBM’s Chief Patent Counsel

by Professor Ruth Soetendorp

In a recent article, Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel at IBM and President of the IPO Education Foundation, was right to point out that increased IP awareness does not necessarily reflect people’s genuine IP understanding or their IP literacy[1].  But what does that matter, and to whom?

The ‘general public’ is a complex mix of IP illiterati including people whose IP curiosity will probably never reach beyond a vague awareness of wrongdoing for enjoying illicit downloads or counterfeit designer brands.  For them, the education system is beginning to wake up to the importance of including IP references in school citizenship classes.  They may never be concerned about how IP fuels our innovation economy or facilitates creative thinking, but they need to be protected from the potential criminality to which their lack of IP knowledge could lead.

Different, but no less lacking in IP knowledge, is the segment of the public whose IP awareness, however vague, has resonated with them. They may be entrepreneurs who realize IP’s relevance to their commercial success.  They are the group to whom international and national IP institutions (USPTO, UKIPO, EUIPO, WIPO etc) are keen to make available the short catchy sound bites that may capture attention but fall short on vital information.  These resources will never compensate for a lack of a deeper IP understanding.  They can trigger an expectation that IP problems will have a right answer, that should be easy to reach.

The public doesn’t need more catchy phrases about what IP rights are. Instead, IP institutions should be braver about telling the public that IP is difficult.  They need to encourage a more critical approach by the general public to the IP they encounter, prompting them to think about the relevant questions that could be posed to colleagues, professional advisers or online resources capable of providing relevant information.

Prime Target

College students are a prime target for IP education that will encourage them to respect and question the legal regimes that will shape their careers and enable them to graduate as more enlightened members of society.  For them, patents will be important, alongside trademarks, copyrights and design rights.  For all, the rules relating to confidentiality and trade secrets have a crucial significance.  Faculties are encouraged to allocate time to convey IP education. There is clear evidence that it would be well received.  Research that supports this strategy was undertaken by the Intellectual Property Awareness Network[2] with the UK National Union of Students into student and academic attitudes to IP education[3] and IP policies in Higher Education institutes[4].

A recent approach I have used with participants from the UK’s Arts and Creative industries sector on the Boosting Resilience Arts Council England project[5], involves using an Intellectual Property Management Decision Tree. The Tree is a graphic representation designed to provide a framework to assist discussion by the general public of an IP issue.  Around the roots are listed the intellectual property concepts that may be relevant to the issue.  Using the Tree helps if an educator is familiar with the concepts.  But if they are unfamiliar the trunk holds addresses of online resources that will provide basic explanatory material.  Most important, the branches hold five key questions to be answered when faced with an IP problem.  When used by Boosting Resilience workshop participants (senior managers of UK Arts and Creative industries enterprises) feedback suggested the Tree had proved a useful device to stimulate small group discussion of IP problems.

No Easy Answers

Encouraging questions about IP matters challenges assumptions and establishes that there are no easy and few definitive answers.  This, in turn, builds confidence to seek out the best advice when faced with IP challenges – to draw upon the best resources.  The public may well never fully understand IP rights or how they achieve their intended purpose. That should not deter IP enthusiasts from their responsibility to help the public tackle the big IP questions that are intrinsic to their lives and future.

__________________________________________________________________

Ruth Soetendorp is a pioneer in promoting IP education for non-lawyers, across all disciplines. Professor Soetendorp has published research with EUIPO, UKIPO, IPAN and the National Union of Students, and has worked with WIPO, EPO and the EC to bring IP education to the international community. She is currently Professor Emerita and Associate Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management at Bournemouth University and a Visiting Academic at Cass Business School, City University of London.

[1] https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/02/03/closing-gap-intellectual-property-awareness-understanding/id=105866/

[2] wwww.ipaware.org

[3] https://www.nus.org.uk/PageFiles/12238/2012_NUS_IPO_IPAN_Student_Attitudes_to_Intellectectual_Property.pdf

[4] http://ipaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IPAN_NUS_University_IP_Policy_16aug16.pdf

[5] https://www.boostingresilience.net/

Image source: epmagazine.com; boostingresilience.net

U.S. Trademark head, PTAB Chief Judge to speak about IP eligibility – $100 discount for IPCU readers

Intellectual property and IP law are in a constant state of flux. For those interested in keeping up with recent changes the 11th annual Corporate IP Counsel Forum is time well-spent.

Corporate speakers include Seagate Technology, MasterCard, American Express, Raytheon, NCR Corporation and SAS Institute. Law firms include Ropes & Gray, Fish & Richardson and Finnegan Henderson.

Mary Boney Denison, U.S. Trademark Commissioner and Mark Powell, Deputy Commissioner of International Patent Cooperation, USPTO, will address “Recent Innovations in Technology and the Resulting Effects on Eligibility.”

IPCCF is being held at the Westin New York Times Square, March 28-29.

This year’s highlights include:

  • Judiciary, in-house, and external counsel perspectives
  • Procedural changes at the PTAB
  • Venue and litigation strategy in the wake of TC Heartland
  • Legal implications of AI
  • Employee trade secret theft
  • Round table break-outs including, understanding blockchain, combating counterfeits & promoting diversity

IP CloseUp readers use code CLOSE to receive a $100 discount. 

For the conference agenda, go here.

For the full list of speakers, go here.

To register, please visit this link.

Image source: uspto.gov; inta.org

 

 

Taylor Swift relies on clout and class to secure a unique streaming deal for fellow musicians

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Whether it was Voltaire or Peter Parker (Spiderman’s Uncle Ben) who said it does not much matter. The important thing is the those responsible for generating and using intellectual property – the coin of the realm –  believe it.

Taylor Swift is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She has already generated more than 130 million streams. But her pop-star status belies her intelligence and vision.

Swift has famously blacklisted Apple for not paying musicians and removed her content from Spotify because of their paltry pay-outs until she got a better deal for musicians. Recently, Swift locked down a highly lucrative record contract with Universal Music Group’s Republic Records, while securing an unprecedented streaming deal for thousands fellow singer-songwriters on the UMG label.

One stipulation of Swift’s new contract states that if UMG sells any of its shares in Spotify, which went public in April, that money must be redistributed to the label’s artists and cannot be recouped. UMG’s 3.5% stake in Spotify has been valued at as high as $1 billion.

Historic Tumblr Post

Swift reportedly prioritized that artists rights over negotiating for ownership of her highly valuable old masters and a bigger cash advance. Largesse of this kind is unprecedented. Swift stated in Tumblr post:

I [also] feel strongly that streaming was founded on and continues to thrive based on the magic created by artists, writers, and producers. 

There was one condition that meant more to me than any other deal point. As part of my new contract with Universal Music Group, I asked that any sale of their Spotify shares result in a distribution of money to their artists, non-recoupable.

‘Non-recoupable’ means that if a recording artist owes UMB money as a result of a cash advance from the label (often the case with younger artists) the proceeds from the sale of Spotify stock cannot be used to pay down the debt. That cash (Swift’s contract states) is to be used expressly for the musicians, many of whom have been paid almost nothing for their Spotify streams while helping build the company’s market value, which has been as high as $35 billion.

Spotify executives have been cashing in some of their valuable shares – why not the musicians who helped to build that value?

She demanded that Apple make sure artists were
compensated 
during Apple Music’s free trials in 2015; and went on a
three-year boycott of Spotify over royalty payouts

IP behavior matters 

“Taylor Swift has been consistent her whole career about protecting the value of music copyrights not just her own,” said David Lowery, lead singer of Cracker and publisher of the Trichordist in the January IAM magazine, here. “IP holders and users both can learn something from her: protecting IP as a matter of principle lifts all boats.”

Swift’s strategy with UMG and Spotify, as well as Apple, is not for effect – it is genuine. Her vision of the future reflects a keen sense of history and an uncanny instinct for survival. Without a truly viable music industry, she suggests, everyone will suffer, even if a handful of top artists may prosper for a while.

For Swift, IP behavior matters. It begins by creating an environment conducive to quality and success.

Let us hope that her bold moves will not go unnoticed by those who generate and own inventions, authored works and other types of creative output. It’s a big IP world and we all have to live in it.

Image source: Irish Times; http://fr.fanpop.com

42% drop in writer income attributed to growth of new media, changing attitudes

Value associated with small content generators and copyright owners appear to be on a similar downward trajectory as independent inventors and patent holders. 

Decline in small book publishing and freelance opportunities for writers has resulted in a 42% decline in income for writers between 2017 and 2009.

The most comprehensive survey of writing-related income of U.S. authors ever conducted, recently published by the Author’s Guild, cites median pay for full-time writers as $20,300 in 2017; $6,080 for part-timers.

The findings included responses from more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

Fewer Opportunities

The decline in free-lance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors who write for a living. Many of the best paying publications have dropped their rates or have folded. Content and copyright are increasingly the province of large providers like Conde Nast, whose own fortunes have been declining.

“The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market,” reported The New York Times. Amazon charges commissions and marketing fees for premium positioning, something smaller publishers cannot afford.

The Times quoted a source as saying the “The people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income.” This, the article said, creates barriers to entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience.

Devaluation Crisis

“There is also a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a vocation.”

The Authors Guild calls the decline a ” crisis of epic proportions, especially for literary writers.”

SMEs and independent inventors take note: devaluation of creative output has not been limited to authored works.

What and how much audiences are willing to pay for intellectual property rights like patents have declined, as cheap or free-access has grown.

Some see it not only as an attitude towards authors, but as a strategy on the part of some content providers to cut costs and limit competition.

Amazon controls approximately 85% of the self-published market and so most self-published authors have no options other than to accept Amazon’s non-negotiable terms.

“Amazon,” says the Authors Guild, “but also Google, Facebook and every other company getting into the content business, devalue what we produce to lower their costs for content distribution, and then take an unfair share of the profits from what remains for delivering that reduced product.”

Among AG recommendations: “Publishers and self-published authors should be able to negotiate collectively with Amazon, Google and Facebook to equalize the bargaining power.”

For a summary of the Authors Guild survey findings and recommendations, go here.

For the full survey, go to the bottom of the page, here.

Image source: fairhaven.com; authorsguild.org

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