Meeting Cultural Disruption in the Digital Era

Holger Volland, Vice President of Frankfurt Book FairIn this interview with Frankfurt Book Fair, Holger Volland, Vice President of the world’s largest book market, talks about copyright and intellectual property (IP) in the digital era.

Can publishers expect new business coming from the arts?
Cultural and creative institutions are digitising all their assets at the moment. This huge pile of cultural content needs publishers who know how to create a business out of it. We are maybe halfway through the digital cultural age: Digital disruption started some time ago with music, film, photography and books. Fine art, product design, architecture and even fashion are now about to follow. What can be digitised will be digitised. And everything that is digitised will be copied and shared – or made into new business models.
A big challenge now is that, so far, only a few players like the Google Art Institute have the technical knowledge and the money to build “cultural content eco systems”. Also, big brands like PRADA are becoming more influential in culture and the arts. They have the money and – far more important – the freedom to establish exciting venues and new collaborations. Discussions about new cultural businesses should be established among all possible stakeholders at a very early stage, and that is now.

Can you explain why museums and publishers are dealing with similar challenges?
Let me give you an example. During a recent visit at the Fondazione Prada, I saw a piece of work by the artist Oliver Laric that was an ancient sculpture that he 3D-scanned and then reprinted. The exhibition, by the way, is called “the stolen image” and was curated by the artist Thomas Demand. Laric often works with 3D scans and prints. Together with the Collection Museum and Usher Gallery in Lincoln, UK, he made some of their pieces available as re-printed sculptures for everybody. Busts of Beethoven, Dante or Einstein were recreated as 3D models and then published online. It does not take a lot of fantasy to think about possible business models for publishers, art institutions and artists. But it is also easy to imagine that free or widely copied content could be quite a challenge for the art world. Just like it was for the music and book industry.

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Digital production processes like 3D scanning, 3D printing, the digitisation of Rembrandt’s brush style (Google “Next Rembrandt” Project) or 360° cameras are further examples of new tools that enable cultural and creative production everywhere. But just like in the publishing industry before, this digital change comes with a lot of questions: How do artists – or their copyright holders – like the idea of digital copies? What does it mean for established creative production companies and providers? Which cities will win the battle for locating these new creative industries? We should discuss that together!
What we need now is a discussion on how to deal with intellectual property and copyright of digital cultural content. We also need to develop new business models around these new digital assets. Publishers with their long experience in building businesses around content can help with that. Otherwise, we would leave it to uncertainty what happens to the 3D architecture models of the late Zaha Hadid, the digitised collection of the TATE or the digital plans for 3D printed fashion items.

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You are starting a new fair parallel to Frankfurt Book Fair that deals with new business for culture and publishers. Isn’t this a bit far from Frankfurt’s core business?
Of course THE ARTS+ attracts a wide variety of creative and cultural industries, like architects, designers, photographers or museums. But the core of what they are interested in is very simple: creating business out of content. And Frankfurt Book Fair already is one of the biggest trade fairs for content in the world. Where else could they meet so many experts in value creation and distribution of cultural products? Furthermore, Frankfurt Book Fair is one of Europe’s biggest cultural events and has been attracting professionals from other disciplines like film or games for many years.

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