Is the European Economy Ready and “Open” for Big Data? Dublin Event Aims to Link Stakeholders

Coinciding with the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Data Forum (EDF) for industry leaders, academics, policy makers, and community organisers will hold its annual meeting in Dublin next month to discuss the challenges and opportunities of (big) data in Europe. The forum hopes to answers important questions such as: is the European economy ready for big data, are relevant stakeholders being reached by the EU-wide data community, and what is Europe providing in terms of innovative business intelligence (BI) solutions?

In an age of exploding data, the management of this data has become a key factor for an organisation’s success, as well as providing a significant advantage over competitors. Teams of data scientists are being employed by large corporations to examine trends in sets of big data, and linked data engineers are gainfully employed in interlinking disconnected datasets that become more meaningful when they are combined together in an interoperable form – including open data published by government bodies and other organisations.

“Data has swept into every industry and business function and is now an important factor of production, alongside labour and capital”, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute. “The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analysing large datasets – so-called big data – will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus.”

Whether you are an oil and gas company trying to deal with data from complex engineering techniques, a publisher trying to stay ahead of social media streams and new content creation models, or a non-government organisation gathering data from hundreds or thousands of individuals in the field, dealing with intense amounts of data is both a challenge and an opportunity. Therefore, a meeting like the European Data Forum should be of interest to a wide range of players.

Presenters at the event include Knut Sebastian Tungland, Chief Engineer for IT at Statoil, and Fiona Williams, Research Director at Ericsson. The program will also feature a panel of Chief Information Officers from Daimler, Telefonica Digital and ATOS. These speakers will discuss topics including research and technology development, training and knowledge transfer, and commercialisation.

“There is a strong industry presence, as can be seen from the program, with some Irish speakers including Gary Evans from EMC, Prof. Mark Ferguson from Science Foundation Ireland, Daragh O’Brien from Castlebridge Associates and Brid Dooley from RTÉ”, according to DERI, NUI Galway‘s Deirdre Lee, local dissemination chair for the event. “We would also like to see a lot of Irish contributions to our Big Data Exhibition Space.”

The event aims to answer three main strategic questions:

  • Is the European economy ready for big data?
    What are the novel innovation and business models for open and linked data? What platforms, marketplaces, policies, and strategies for the development of data ecosystems should be targeted?
  • Is the EU-wide data community reaching out to relevant stakeholders?
    Do the application scenarios and specific technical and non-technical concepts of big data providers and consumers meet demands for themes like smart cities, environmental research, geospatial information, e-science, and social media?
  • What does Europe provide in terms of innovative business intelligence solutions?
    How can the sector best align with European research agendas and roadmaps for science, technology and innovation, in particular in relation to research framework programmes such as Horizon 2020? Which framework conditions are essential for meeting Europe’s ambitions towards a profitable data economy, such as forthcoming standardisation needs and commercialisation opportunities?

Some other topics for discussion at the forum include the challenges and opportunities around big data management, the single steps of the data value chain, technological innovations and innovative business models, as well as the legal framework for a sustainable European data economy.

Registration is free, but space is limited, so you are advised to register early.

Copyright, Fair Use, and the Need for Revenue

The laws of copyright have been abused and misused of late in a desperate attempt by European newspapers and music industry bodies to monetise the inclusion of articles and songs into online content.

In Ireland, a representative body for a cross-section of Irish newspapers attempted to extract royalty payments from individuals who included any link on their own sites to articles published on the web by its newspapers. It even targeted a charity that had included links to articles about it on its website.

The newspaper body quickly reassessed its position after coming under intense media pressure. It decided it would not seek royalty payments where an individual merely linked to a newspaper article and there was no reproduction of images or content from the newspaper by the individual for commercial use.

Ireland is not the only country with copyright problems. The US issues with copyright and intellectual property rights have emerged again with the recent ban on unlocking mobile phones. Since the defeat of SOPA the uncertainty surrounding the use of copyright to stifle freedom of expression and the sharing of ideas has somewhat disappeared.

Under US copyright law, the ‘fair use’ doctrine allows the use of a copyrighted piece of work by a third party in certain circumstances. It takes a practical approach to the third party use and assesses whether it is of a commercial nature; how much of the copyrighted work it reproduces and, most importantly, the effect of the use on the potential value or market for the copyrighted work. While this may not save cell phone users who wish to unlock their phones, it is a useful exception.

Ireland also has a similar exemption under its laws . A copyrighted work is not infringed where it is added to a new work in a secondary manner that does not ‘unreasonably prejudice’ the interests of the copyright owner. In the case of individuals linking to articles published online by newspapers, where the link is just included as part of the article then it is difficult to see how it could unreasonably prejudice the rights of the copyright holder. The request for payment by the newspaper organisation noted above would more than likely have fallen under this exclusion.

Germany unfortunately has no such exemption under its laws. GEMA, a German music industry body, has won a court case to allow it to block the publication of videos on YouTube that include music in the background, many times only as a result of where the video was filmed and not because the filmmaker has intentionally added it. GEMA has requested a per-stream payment of €0.00375 to allow the videos to be shown.

Germany is just another example of the manic attempts by industry to apply copyright in the wrong way. In the Irish context, consider this http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/newspapers-charges-linking-ireland-740093-Jan2013/. Have I just infringed on the rights of the paper I just linked to or have I driven content to their site that otherwise would never have clicked into that article? You decide. That link is merely a tiny section of this overall article and, as such, could it really be said to ‘unreasonably prejudice’ the rights of the copyright holder?

Another consideration, particularly with regards to music, is the potential benefit of including a song into another work. Bear with me as I draw a comparison with a recent pop culture phenomenon. How many of us have been subjected to countless videos of individuals dancing ‘Gangham Style’ to the music of South Korean musician PSY? A search of YouTube returns over half a million videos of people jumping around like show ponies.

Where PSY had chosen to use copyright to block individuals from publishing videos featuring his music or, even worse, attempted to charge them for inclusion of his song into the videos, would he have any measure of the international fame he now enjoys?

Obviously I’m not suggesting that internet users be given full reign to use copyrighted works online. It is recommended that owners and defenders of copyrightable works become smarter about how and when they invoke the protections available under the law.

Where an individual copies an article, or an extract from it, directly into an online work without acknowledging the original author then he should be liable for infringement of the author’s rights. On the flip side, where a website links to an article on a newspapers online offering and this helps to drive traffic to that newspaper’s site and promote awareness of its brand, this should be encouraged.

Similarly, where a section of a music video is used by an individual within a video that is posted online, the creator or owner of that piece of music must consider whether this will be of potential benefit to them in driving sales of their song or if it is a genuine infringement of their rights. Where the use of the song is for a non-commercial purpose or is merely incidental to the video, the song’s owner should welcome this rather than try to stamp it out.

It is obvious that newspapers and the music industries are under pressure (in the case of the US mobile industry there attempt to misuse intellectual property rights may just be greed). What does not seem to be obvious to them is the enormous benefits that can accrue from allowing their products to be promoted by individuals across the web. Sure they do not get an immediate swell in their bank accounts by charging a royalty but what they get is something greater – free global advertising and increased brand recognition.

Lisa is a solicitor with Leman Solicitors, Dublin with a fondness for IP and data protection. She is also a journalist and wrote for New Tech Post.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter.

Would You Pay an Ongoing ‘Entertainment’ Tax to use Your Mobile Device?

An Irish Government minister has recently announced that every home in the country will have to pay a TV license fee regardless of whether they have a TV or not. He is quoted as saying;

“In short, everyone benefits from the availability of these services, regardless of how content is accessed or relayed to the public and, therefore, it is my view that the cost should be borne by society as a whole.”

There are two implied premises to his argument: The first is, that people are watching more programming on their mobile devices or computers to the extent that the relationship between broadcaster and viewer has changed in some fundamental way.

Second, that watching television is not only beneficial in itself but is of benefit to society as a whole.

Dealing with the second point first. For the most part Television isn’t even a benefit to the immediate viewer let alone the public at large.

In particular, no child should be left unattended watching television. Once they are away from “Thomas the Tank Engine” and highly specific programmes of a kind especially produced to aid child development, television is nothing but an outright danger. Indiscriminate viewing does them nothing but harm.

Television is also a major health hazard to those old enough to know where the off button is. It is a clearly identifiable contributor to the obesity epidemic which in turn is the leading cause of heart failure and diabetes in the western world. Never mind a whole host of other nasty side effects.

The far more interesting assertion to discuss is the notion that content is being viewed on mobile devices and computers rather than a conventional TV set.

The evidence from the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017 white paper would suggest that the Minister’s assertions may have some basis. (The executive summary is well-worth reading.)

Relevant to this discussion are two findings from the Cisco research:

1.) Smartphones represented only 18 percent of total global handsets in use in 2012, but represented 92 percent of total global handset traffic. In 2012, the typical smartphone generated 50 times more mobile data traffic (342 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 6.8 MB per month of mobile data traffic).

2.) Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017. Mobile video will increase 16-fold between 2012 and 2017, accounting for over 66 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.

<img src="https://technologyvoice.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/mobile-usage.png" align="left" vspace="10" hspace="10"The most recent figures from TV Licensing in the UK show that 39% of homes watched TV content on a smartphone while another 14% used a tablet.

However, while there is a certain handiness in being able to view content on mobiles, computers, etc. it is hard to believe that it as remotely a satisfactory an experience as watching content on a proper screen accompanied by proper sound.

Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to or that you will.

Not to be a complete killjoy, I do think the world would be a sorrier place without programmes such as; The Wire, Breaking Bad, BSG, Firefly and so on. The rest, however, is junk.

So why this move? As is usual, one has to follow the money. Television is a ubiquitous service and most households in Ireland have a viewing set for which they already pay a TV license. So the additional money raised from properties that don’t have televisions will be trivial in comparison to the amount that is already being raised.

Technically, it is not a poll tax but it is in effect a tax on just living in a house which all of us need to do. It contains within it the pernicious idea that we now have to pay a tax to the government for no other reason then that we happen to exist. This has nothing to do with income or property rights.

More pernicious still for those of us who actually enjoy and benefit from technology is the identification (if only by approximation at this point) of everyday gadgetry such as mobile phones, tablets and personal computers as being liable for periodic taxation as opposed to taxes paid at the point of sale.

The dubious and unsupported argument for such an imposition is based on the idea that these devices can carry so-called entertainment from publicly funded broadcasters and are the practical objects for conveying the wider benefit that the minister refers to. (It is equally likely that he could have been referring to some sort of magical thinking that conveyed this benefit – hard to know with politicians.)

However, with the sort of figures being talked about in the Cisco report it is going to be hard for any government to turn away from such a potentially abundant source of income. It is just a matter of them figuring out precisely how.