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Cultural and artistic copyright has huge potential as innovative platforms extract value through licensing.



Cultural and creative content has extended to corporate marketing and consumer life as social media and open-data applications develop rapidly, and public awareness of the shared economy increases. This stimulates secondary copyright creation and turns consumers into content creators and copyright holders, bringing new challenges and opportunities to the licensing market.At the ninth Asian Licensing Conference - held concurrently with the Hong Kong International Licensing Show organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council early this year - a seminar, "The Rise of Cultural and Creative Property Rights", invited many experts to discuss the latest licensing trends.

Japanese heritage

Satoshi Kobori

ARTEFACTORY's Executive Vice President Satoshi Kobori

ARTEFACTORY's Executive Vice-President Satoshi Kobori enumerated three steps to promoting art - input, online publishing and use. To create  content, the company took pictures at Japanese shrines, temples and museums, and stored the works in its digital archiving system. The company then released about 10 million digital works through the Internet, letting users purchase the art for their web pages.As an example of the works being used, Mr Kabori said Toyota had rented digital copies from the company for 15 years and  displayed such art in the Lexus showroom in Japan.

GLAM unified authorisation system

Douglas McCarthy
Douglas McCarthy, Collections Manager at Europeana Foundation

Douglas McCarthy, the Collections Manager at Europeana Foundation, told the seminar how the art gallery, library, archive and museum (GLAM) industry is transforming information into open source and licensed content.The foundation was formed by about 3,000 cultural and creative content holders, sponsored by the European Commission, and provides about 60 million items including works of art,  handicraft, books, films and music creations from European archives, museums, galleries and libraries. Visitors can browse these works online by category, finding the source, creator and copyright holder of each work through clear catalogue information - including the data provider's website link, and copyright or rights notice.Mr McCarthy said the foundation’s licensing system standardises the information related to licensing, allowing shared licensing. He said the website clearly indicates  licensing restrictions, such as whether the work can be copied and publicly released, modified and adapted, used for commercial purposes, signed or not, and whether the rights to the work are obtained through copyright or other methods.He highlighted the pioneering role of the M + Museum in Hong Kong, which is currently under construction, in offering open access, noting its plans to publish the data of its collection and release knowledge to the public domain for reuse. Opening up GLAM will connect culture with the Internet, the world and its people, inject new elements into creativity and knowledge, and help GLAM fulfil its mission, said Mr McCarthy.

Manufacturers' culture empowers transformation

Stanley Yeung

Brands United CEO Stanley Yeung

Brands United, a Hong Kong gifts manufacturer, reached a bottleneck in the 1980s and 1990s, with competition from Mainland China’s growing manufacturing industry and the rise of direct selling, CEO Stanley Yeung said. The company then partnered with MSN's emoji character "Little Ma" to launch a series of retail products in 2005. Mr Yeung said the market responded enthusiastically to the products, bringing a profit of US$80,000, far exceeding returns from manufacturing. This boosted his interest in the licensing industry; while the Licensing Show and the HKTDC’s business matching service have enabled Brands United to establish a network and become a licensed operator and agent for some brands."Now we are shifting our focus from the media and entertainment industry to cultural and artistic copyrights,” Mr Yeung said. “One example is the cooperation with Hong Kong Tramways, which carry an average of 200,000 passengers per day.” The French owners of the tram service are committed to licensing and establishing a tram brand."Many shopping malls in Hong Kong are willing to buy Hong Kong Tramways products as event gifts,” Mr Yeung said. He also believes this marketing method has no direct competition and it is easy to find contract manufacturers, so it can bring in more revenue than manufacturing. Other units licensed and sold in collaboration with Mr Yeung include Suning and MasterChef.

Digital owner stream

Yoshito Abe
GignoSystem Managing Director Yoshito Abe
At the conference, insights were also shared by Yoshito Abe, Managing Director of GignoSystem, a Japanese company that distributes media content to online platforms in various countries and arranges licensing programmes for popular Japanese characters such as Joke Bear. It also helps food and beverage enterprises bring characters into their TV commercials.The company has signed exclusive management contracts with 16 creators and had agreements on content distribution with about 200 creators. Currently, the firm represents has about 600,000 Twitter followers.Mr Abe believes there are two phases of role management, first publishing content, then licensing and sales.  
Digital publishing was declining and the licensing business would take its place, he reckoned. Mr Abe also noted the character boom has changed -- People used to love cute characters, but now they prefer characters that can project themselves and resonate. GignoSystem’s focus markets include the mainland, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia.Related link
Hong Kong International Licensing Show

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