The future of the media, recent developments in the Internet and social networks, as well as copyright and legal regulation in this area were discussed.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with experts in media innovation
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: The issues you discuss also interest me as President, to be honest, although I do not think of myself as a media professional. I may be a newsmaker, but I am certainly not the only actor on this stage. Nevertheless, this is a very interesting aspect of our lives. I have a feeling that with every passing year it is becoming more and more difficult to identify the border you mentioned earlier: the border between the media and the information environment, and the people operating in it are not professional journalists but just people who have something to say. This creates a number of challenges, the regulation issues you talked about, including absolutely practical matters.
During a recent meting with representatives of the Internet community we talked about what to do in a situation when, say, comments are made on the website of a media outlet, and these comments contain things that are illegal in any existing legal system. Is the media outlet responsible or not? This is just one of the problems that in my opinion reflect the real situation.
I'm not even talking about copyright, which has been the subject of great many statements lately, including those made by me. I would like to say that I will set out my proposals regarding the issues discussed also with other colleagues. Hopefully it will be of interest. I hope that the media environment will analyse them because I get a feeling that not all of my colleagues, for example the leaders of different states, are ready to join in a serious discussion of the complex processes taking place in the regulation of intellectual property.
Many people’s position is ”let's keep everything that has been done so far, and not touch anything for now.“ But this is the way to a standstill. Therefore, this topic is enormous and very, very interesting.
To be honest, if I had a slightly different job, I would gladly get involved in drafting legislation in this area, because this is really interesting. This is such a new medium, and in order to make sure that regulations are effective we should at least get a feel for it. And given the fact that I’ve been watching developments in this area, I think that I would enjoy it a great deal. I may tackle it some day because there are many outstanding challenges and we will have to find responses to them.
Moscow may become a creative centre, perceived by people the way New York, Hollywood or London are viewed as creative centres now. Creativity requires intellectual depth, and I believe this is one of Russia’s greatest assets. Russia can be viewed through the prism of creative industries. Moreover, each country has adopted a very energetic approach to the creative industry, regarding it in terms of GDP growth. I think we should also consider it when we establish such creative incubators.
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(Responding to Ralph Simon’s remark that Moscow could become one of the world's creative centres) Do you think we must do it here in Russia? Well, we're ready for it, because I believe we have a very high potential in this area, whatever others may say.
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I really like vkontakte.ru and facebook, and other good social networks. I think the role vkontakte has played in Russia is obvious. I will not assess the extent of borrowing certain ideas, because that is very ungrateful business, and as even my modest legal experience shows can rarely be proved. But the fact that the network vkontakte has developed in Russia has clearly partly blocked the growth of facebook’s popularity in our country. Perhaps if this resource had not appeared, facebook’s development would have been somewhat different.
I think this is a philosophical question. Even Google is not as widely used in Russia as in the rest of the world. I recently met with Google’s top management and talked about how they are doing in different countries and in Russia. We have our own search engines, which does not mean that we think Russia should use only its own search engines. Certainly not, but I think if we have our own engines they cannot be ignored, given that Google, for example, already has a presence virtually everywhere in the world and only a few countries are trying to create their own products. I think it's a good thing.
In the end, the one who will offer some new options, new opportunities and new ideas will come out the winner. None of us has a perfectly clear idea of what, for example, the media innovation industry will look like in ten years, just as ten years ago nobody could have imagined facebook or vkontakte and the existence of a wide variety of social networks. Who will still be around in ten years? I have no answer to this question. Will vkontakte, which is now worth billions of dollars, survive? Maybe. Will it be facebook, which is already worth almost $100 billion? I do not have the answer, although this topic was recently discussed at a G8 Summit, in the presence of the G8 heads of state and online community leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg and several others.
I think it’s extremely interesting that nobody knows what will happen. In any case, we must not lag behind the times, that's for sure. And we should not try to force things into the old framework when they do not fit in. In this case I'm talking about everything from the regulation of certain aspects of intellectual property and ending with, say, regulation of media innovation and the media industry.
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Incidentally, I did not mention another issue that I do not know if you have touched on already or not: there is also a need to earn money. I don’t think this task has been cancelled. Obviously, this environment often evolves according to non-profit laws, which is great because it creates room for growth. At the same time, we all realise that business and non-profit should exist side by side.
We are still to determine where this source of income lies. Incidentally, when I looked up the website, they were discussing it in the forum: what are some ways to earn money and how about advertising? I think the expectations for online advertising were too high. It is not a bad source of revenues, but it does not bring huge profits. We are still to find out how this market will evolve. Is it capable of developing as part of the whole industry? I also have no answer to this question.