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World IP Day interview part 1: WIPO Director General Francis Gurry

James Nurton

Ahead of this year’s World IP Day on April 26, and following his recent re-election as WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry spoke to Managing IP about movies, piracy and his favourite film

Francis GurryIf you’re going to the movies this weekend, you may without realising it be marking this year’s World IP Day. The theme WIPO has chosen for the annual occasion, now in its 14th year, is “Movies – A Global Passion”.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry (right) says the theme was chosen for several reasons: it is something everyone relates to and there is an easy connection with IP; there is a challenge arising from the online environment; and globalisation has seen cinema expand beyond the traditional powers of Hollywood and Europe to India, Nigeria, Korea, China and elsewhere.

It is the second point, regarding digital piracy, that Gurry describes as “particularly worrying”. He says: “In the movies there is an enormous disjunction between the cost of production and the cost of reproduction. A movie may take 12 months and several hundred people to make and will involve all forms of IP – music performance, the writer of the script, all the actors; there’s an enormous aggregation of IP, all reproduced for zero marginal cost and distributed worldwide.”

He says the solution is partly about “tweaks in the legislative framework” but more about pushing new business models. On the former, he cites the need to revisit and refine the first-sale doctrine, as it’s called in the US: “What does that mean in a digital environment?”

But the major part of the transition is business models. “We’ve seen many more successful ways of monetising content. We now need to create the infrastructure of the digital marketplace,” Gurry says. That means for example making it easier to license content across different jurisdictions: “It should be as easy to get content legally as it is illegally. That involves cooperation by all partners and mainly by the private sector.” He cites Netflix as an example of a new, legal, means of distributing content that is “highly valuable”.

World IP Day is an opportunity to spread information and education about IP in a positive manner beyond the normally engaged communities, and Gurry says movies provide a great vehicle to do this: “It is an opportunity to say: you love movies. Think for a moment about all the people involved ... and how they earn their living. The harsh reality is that 99% of actors make a meagre economic existence. If you want more of those movies, people have to finance production.”

World IP Day 2014Asked what message he has for children who download films illegally, Gurry says they need to understand the economics of the industry but also stresses that it is down to parents to buy legitimate content: “They buy books, they pay for sporting events, and movies and music are another example of the same thing.”

He picks out Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, the 1974 movie is about a man who suddenly appears in society, as his own favourite film. Among more recent movies, he says he enjoyed The Cider House Rules.

Gurry will be spending World IP Day in the US, speaking at the Fordham Conference in New York before travelling to Washington DC. There will be a celebration at WIPO’s headquarters in Geneva next Monday.

Gurry was recently chosen by WIPO’s Coordination Committee to serve for a second six-year term starting from this October. The WIPO General Assembly will meet on May 8-9 to confirm the nomination.

In the interview, he confirmed that, for the first time, WIPO will invite direct applications for the various deputy director general and assistant director general positions. Notices will be published in the summer.

In part 2 of this exclusive interview, to be published next week, Gurry speaks about his plans for his forthcoming second term as Director General, where he thinks WIPO needs to improve and what lessons he learned from his first term.

Managing IP has compiled a quiz on IP in the movies to mark World IP Day.

For those looking to become a full Managing IP member, you can save 20% when you join us before April 25 2014. Click here to find out more.


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