Lessons to Learn

I am on my way back from Munich, where I participated in a conference centered around the unveiling of a book on digital single market and artificial intelligence. I had the distinct privilege of authoring a chapter in this comprehensive work. If you’re curious about it, I’ve included links to both the book and the conference for further exploration.

Predictably, the panels were predominantly focused on AI, technology, and the sweeping “avalanche” of European regulations (DSM, NIS2, AI Act, etc.), which are poised to significantly influence legal professionals, corporations, and consumers alike.

Among all the insightful panels, there was one in particular that captured my attention. This panel brought together speakers from across different continents and countries, engaging in a comparative analysis of the potential for patenting AI models. The discourse was particularly captivating for two reasons: firstly, the diversity in procedural approaches across jurisdictions such as Japan, the US, Europe, South Korea, and China; and secondly, the dynamic nature of these procedures, highlighting a landscape where what is valid today might not necessarily hold a year from now.

While part of my attention was riveted on these discussions, another part of my mind embarked on a nostalgic journey.

My thoughts traveled back to 1999, the year a young guy called Shawn Fanning revolutionized the music industry with the creation of Napster. I was just 14 at the time, deeply immersed in my passion for music collection and fandom. I have vivid memories of the era, including Metallica and RIAA’s fervent battle against piracy, the ensuing crisis within the recording industry, the advent of iTunes, and later Spotify, in a bid to curb the plummeting sales. But beyond these developments, I also reminisce about the emergence of remix culture, the evolution of digital fingerprinting technology (probably thanks to Viacom vs. YouTube), and the explosion of the live music scene. It’s intriguing to reflect on how these events may have influenced my life, or at least my attendance at over a thousand concerts.

Yet, the most significant transformation I’ve witnessed pertains to the perceived value of music. Today, many of us subscribe to services like Apple Music or Spotify not with the intent to directly remunerate artists or to “own” the music in a traditional sense, given the prevailing perception of music as a freely accessible commodity. Instead, our subscriptions are motivated by the curated playlists and, perhaps, the desire to avoid advertisements. This paradigm shift has profoundly affected me, driving my obsession with innovation and law, as I observe the year-over-year evolution in how the value of legal work is perceived by clients and society.

Since those formative years, I’ve maintained my engagement as a music collector, author, and guitarist, but I’ve also branched out into the realm of entertainment law, lectured on copyright law, and delved into the music industry through part-time roles with a label, a booking agency, and an event organizer. This was all prior to embarking on the second phase of my career.

In this blog, the theme of destiny frequently surfaces, reinforcing its undeniable impact. So here we are…

Remarkably, by sheer coincidence, an after-event dinner placed me in close proximity to an influential figure within the music industry, who is also the husband of one of the speakers.

Our conversation meandered through topics such as music, concerts, and streaming services, punctuated by the enjoyment of several pints of exquisite German beer. Amidst this exchange, I ventured to ask a question that had been simmering in my mind: “What lessons can we draw from the landmark year of 1999″? While I choose to keep his wise reflections private, it’s evident that we find ourselves at a similar historical juncture.

Twenty-five years later, we are at the cusp of a new paradigm shift.

The manner in which we regard artistic work and its perceived value is set to undergo a permanent transformation. This is a universally acknowledged truth. However, that’s not the focal point for me.

Instead, my central concern revolves around the lessons the artistic and legal community can derive from these experiences. How can we strategically position ourselves to harness, rather than resist, the winds of change? How can we promote the development of AI models and their unique advantages for the artistic world (beyond just the realm of music), while also safeguarding the rights and protections of creators?

Confronted with such significant challenges, I find myself grappling with more questions than answers.

Thus, as I journey back from Munich, my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts

What lessons can we, as lawyers, artists, and corporations, learn from the experience of 1999?

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