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What are IP journalists doing wrong?

Peter Leung

Increased interest in intellectual property has not necessarily resulted in a better understanding of IP rights or stronger support for them. How can the media help?

It’s not controversial to say that IP has become a sexy topic. Recent disputes such as the Apple v Samsung litigation helped to splash intellectual property on the front page of mainstream newspapers, and around the world, politicians, pundits and journalists are more likely than ever to talk about the IP-related aspects of topics from healthcare costs to international relations to nation building.

Their hearts are in the right place: Nearly 8 million YouTube clips carry a 'no infringement intended' disclaimer

Despite this increased media attention and interest, actual understanding of IP is less than ideal. In OHIM’s report on European perceptions of IP published this week, only 13% of those surveyed demonstrated what would qualify as a good understanding of intellectual property, even though 73% describe their understanding as good.

This disconnect between actual and perceived understanding of IP may help to explain the surprising hardiness of common misconceptions about intellectual property, such as the belief that adding a “no copyright infringement intended” disclaimer to a YouTube video immunises the uploader from liability or the video from takedown.

Beyond YouTube video provisos, there are some very real consequences for rights owners. For example, supporters of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement say that the opposition had a poor understanding of the treaty and its effect on intellectual property (although, one may argue, they would say that, wouldn't they).

WIPO and the IP Office of Singapore (IPOS) believe that journalists may be able to help. On Monday, the two organisations are hosting a seminar in Singapore entitled “Intellectual Property is Big News: Regional Seminar for Senior Editors”, which aims to bring together journalists to discuss how to cover IP-related news in a more interesting and compelling way (disclaimer: I will be speaking at the event). The two-day seminar will feature speakers from WIPO and IPOS as well as practitioners and executives from private industry speaking about the importance of IP. Confirmed speakers include Denis Croze, director of WIPO’s Singapore office, Ang Kwee Tiang of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and Reuben Lee, CEO of XMI.

So, a question for MIP readers: as an IP professional, what suggestions do you have for journalists who want to do a better job at covering intellectual property news? What are some common mistakes to avoid? Do let us know via Twitter (@managingip) or in the comments section below.


Article Comments

Yes, the point wasn't to explain the impact of poor journalism, though that would be an interesting topic. I don't think it's controversial to say that journalism about IP could be better, nor do I think it's an outrageous idea to say that journalists should try to educate their readers. While journalists can't solve the problem alone, it's still worth asking what they can do better.

Peter Leung Dec 05, 2013

It seems that what needs to be corrected is the general awareness of IP. The article is not able to explain the impact of poor IP journalism, if that actually is the intent.

General unawareness of the topic Dec 05, 2013

Shoddy reporting on IP developments, which is rampant, is not always about a lack of information about the issues. The agenda of the publications and reporters that cover the news is a major factor that many readers are unable to acknowledge.

IP Ignorance or Patent Agenda? Dec 04, 2013

Yes, I agree that there is more to the controversy surrounding international treaties than whether journalists are doing a good job. In fact, I discussed many of the concerns you are raising in a previous post:

Peter Leung Dec 02, 2013

You are leaving out much of the context.

For example, if there is a poor understanding of the IP provisions of the TPP treaty by the critics of the treaty, the only people to blame are the supporters, who have kept the negotiations SECRET.

This event has none of those who would likely be critical of the treaty, e.g. Michael Geist, or Jamie Love from Knowledge Ecology International.

The treaty has arisen from a deeply flawed, secret, undemocratic process and is just another example of the 1% destroying the chance of the 99% of having better lives. Treaties that arise from such flawed processes need to be stopped, and restarted with a blank slate in an inclusive, transparent and democratic process.

eee_eff Dec 02, 2013

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