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IFA+ Summit: Vision Meets Industry

I was honoured to be invited to talk at the IFA+ Summit, today (Sept 8) in Berlin.

About IFA Summit

The IFA+ Summit 2015 highlights tomorrow’s imminent major developments today – in a top-level get-together among high-profile attendees. Come and experience the leading pioneers in six different areas that will define our future: mobility, health, big data, design, home, and entertainment.

I took part in the Next Level of Entertainment area:

In the era of Web 2.0 the recipients more and more become producers on their part. The rising willingness to pay for consumption of digital content is the pre-condition for the development of new business. Who will produce what kind of content and who will be paid for it in what way? Will traditional media entertainment be replaced by online platforms and archives?

The Talks

The Entertainment area speakers were:

  • Dr. Jonathan Taplin. He’s a professor at USC, and directs an innovation lab specializing digital media entertainment. He showed worrisome statistics about how in our digital age & the internet, creators aren’t getting paid.
  • Julia Schuler. She’s Sr VP of Product Development for Sky Germany. She explored what pay TV might look like in the future, and described how novel viewing habits can affect business models. E.g. binge watching, or teenagers sharing 10 s of a movie.
  • Michael Krause. He’s Managing Director GSA for Deezer. He showed numbers from Deezer (the #2 streaming service, after Spotify) how revenues are on the rise, and that there are bright spots for creators getting compensated as time goes on.
  • Yours truly:) I talked about how it’s hard for creators to get paid on the internet when sharing is a de facto habit, how the design of the WWW made it like this, and how we can improve the situation for creators by leveraging easy-to-apply legals, internet-scale machine learning, and blockchain technology. I was able to draw on all three previous talks as an input into my talk – yay!

The Panels

These four talks were followed by a panel of three folks: Prof. Taplin, myself, and Matthijs Wouter Knol who is director of the European Film Market. We riffed on the thread that had begun with the previous four talks.

  • To the question of what the best monetization model was, my answer was: make it easy for entrepreneurs trying different models, without spending months or years fiddling with the licensing. This could be enabled via a single unified API that made it simple to access all the (currently) walled-garden content, with appropriate licensing. Let a thousand flowers bloom!
  • Another question for me was: does ascribe need to flout any laws (Si Valley style) in order to succeed in its vision? My answer was no, because what’s cool is that laws already exist to protect ideas — they’re intellectual property laws! It’s just that IP laws have been quite inaccessible to creators, so if we make those more accessible (backed up with content) then you can change the game and improve the world.

Pre-Conference Interview

Prior to the conference, the IFA folks had asked me several interview questions. Some readers may find this Q & A interesting.

Q: Please tell us a little about your organization and your own role on a daily basis.

ascribe enables creators to share and sell their digital intellectual property, without losing control. We’re making IP easy to use for creators. Our solution leverages the bitcoin blockchain, machine learning, and legal frameworks. We’re Berlin-based, VC-funded, and have decades of experience in startups, banking, intellectual property, and creative industries.

As CTO, I run engineering. With my co-founders and team, I work to translate our mission & long-term vision into a roadmap then week-to-week execution in product & marketing.

Q: What do you see as being the biggest challenges in your industry today?

Creators are getting a raw deal on the internet, because there’s either high friction to compensate them, or they’re getting an very low share of the proceeds when audiences enjoy their creations.

Q: Please outline – in around 100 words, your presentation at the IFA+ Summit

The title is “Rewiring the internet, for Creators”. How do you “own” something digital when bits can be copied freely? It’s easy to share, but how can artists get fairly compensated on the internet? It turns out that visionaries of hypertext foresaw these issues in the 60s, and even proposed solutions. However, those proposals were too complex and hard to build. By the early 90s, the simpler WWW had emerged but in its simplicity, it left out attribution. We ask a new question: can we retrofit the internet for attribution, for creators? It turns out the answer is yes, with the help of big data, artificial intelligence, and bitcoin blockchain technology. This talk explores how the dream of attribution, ownership, and compensation on the internet is being revived.

Q: The “catch phrase” of the summit is “next level of thinking”. How important is it for people to project onto a different plane in this respect and look at things in a different way?


Q: What are your thoughts on the fact that IFA has created this industry summit?

Fantastic. Most businesses only think with a very short time horizon – the next quarter, or year, or 5 years max. But sometimes good things take time. So why not design the future we want in 20 or 100 years’ time, then work backwards to the businesses we can build today that take us towards this future? It’s good for business, and good for humanity.

To conclude, I’d like to thank the folks at IFA for putting on a great show, and for inviting me to be a part of it! Thanks especially to Jöran-Adrian and to Leah!

Photo credit: Leah Stuhltrager