Panodyssey Manifesto - Reconciling the digital world with ethics

Panodyssey Manifesto - Reconciling The Digital World With Ethics

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Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Making the Culture the core of the European digital model!

The digital revolution has been a hegemonic one. No sector has escaped it, and the joyful excitement of the early days has given birth to technological and economic giants that today dictate the world’s fate. The GAFAM, NATU and other BATX have created a new balance - or rather imbalance - of power where priority is given to their own interests rather than aligning their goals with citizens, consumers, companies, associations and public authorities. In this context, Europe is the biggest loser.  Without any major player or leadership, Europe has now become an open market where American and Chinese companies roll out their model and feast on.

The European digital exception

Described this way, the situation can appear bleak. But it doesn’t have to be. Firstly, because this subservience is not complete, secondly because nothing is irreversible and thirdly because we do not have to accept it. Beyond the economic and strategic competition, we are faced with a political choice. The ambition to build a European digital model fitting our values (political, intellectual, cultural and social) as an alternative has never been as strong as it is now. 

This desire really came to life in public opinion when several of these digital giants were faced with historical fines for abuse of a dominant position. The result was a demand for measures to put an end to harmful economic practices. After the Consumer, Europe focused on protecting the citizen and her privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation is thus a major innovation in the protection of fundamental rights in Europe and beyond.  

Although this regulation attempt was at first ignored, mocked and pushed back, in the United States especially, it has now become a source of inspiration, in the matter of data protection, competitive regulation or digital taxation, as seen at a state level in the USA with California. 

After consumers and citizens, we should now protect creators!

The project of an open, balanced and concerted European digital model focused on the general and public interests above political or economic ones should march on and bring its attention next on the value chain and its main engine: the contents and those who create them. 

All the technological giants discussed earlier have in common the exploitation of immaterial content (news, music, video, press, games, etc.) to grow their own products/services revenues. Google sells advertising by indexing content produced by third parties, Amazon builds loyalty among its e-commerce customers through audio-visual content offering, social networks live off the organization of their users' production, and Apple's products would be empty if they had to use solely their own productions.

The dominant business model is simple: to exploit intellectual and cultural production in order to sell something else, most often targeted advertising. The main problem is that those who create value are usually excluded from the profit. Even when intellectual and intangible productions are not simply exploited without an agreement, the imbalance of power between content creator and the creation/dissemination platforms leads to an extremely skewed distribution of rights and benefits. It is not uncommon to see one's rights pillaged, to see one pay confiscatory fees on its creation’s income, to see its creation suddenly demonetized, or simply to see it copied, exploited, sometimes betrayed, without the possibility of any recourse. 

For a virtuous European digital model by design

Therefore, and since cultural production is used as a tool to increase the digital companies’ actual business models revenues, protecting creators by guaranteeing them control over their creation and fair remuneration is a moral and economic obligation.

Europe understands this perfectly and is currently working hard on copyright reform. However, while regulation is imperative, it will not be enough. There is a need to bring forth virtuous alternative services offering an immediate solution to creators, consumers and citizens. Technological solutions exist but an economic and political will, resolute, is needed to accelerate their adoption. France seems to be taking steps in the right direction with the launch of the General States of the cultural and creative industries, which has the advantage of bringing all the players around the table.

The emergence of these virtuous models, created to both protect content sharing and the creator’s interests is possible, it is even a strategic requirement if we consider the power of the European cultural industry, a real treasure which should not be unduly plundered! We, therefore, call on the public authorities, but also private players, financiers and consumers to join us and participate through their political and economic choices in the construction of this European virtuous digital era.
This will require to redirect funding, to attract creators, to promote and use the right tools and even, why not, to pay for quality content!