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The importance of IP rights for innovation

Protecting intellectual property of our innovators ensures future generations will enjoy art forms as rich, diverse and creative as those we enjoy today

Culture and creativity stir the soul like nothing else. Whether it is music, film or literature, the dynamic and innovative societies we enjoy today come from the hard work of many people across many industries. This tradition is as true in India as it is in the US. As we approach this year’s World Intellectual Property Day and its theme Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined, I have been reflecting on my past year in New Delhi as the US ambassador.

When we consider the massive influence and role that Indians have in the digital world, from software to entertainment, it seems an appropriate lens through which we can view our relationship.

Today, in the age of the Internet, media can be shared faster and distributed more widely than ever before. The digital age has reduced physical barriers, including national borders, and the US and India are arguably the world’s leading influencers of this process. Not only do music, film and literature matter to us as consumers, but they also matter deeply to the people who created the art itself, and derive their livelihood from them. This includes the thousands of men and women who develop, produce, create, distribute or promote music, films and television programmes in the US and India.

The digital age, however, is not without its challenges. Protecting the intellectual property of our innovators and ensuring they are rewarded for their contributions ensures that future generations will enjoy art forms as rich, diverse and creative as those we enjoy today.

Earlier this year, we were electrified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the launch of the Start-up India campaign, during which he underscored the importance of intellectual property rights for India’s innovators. This message could not have been more timely.

India’s entertainment industry has undergone explosive growth over the past 30 years, led by the television industry’s continued annual double-digit growth. Likewise, India’s rapidly expanding broadband marketplace is creating a massive marketplace for digital content in the film, music and gaming segments, which contribute hundreds of billions of rupees to India’s economy annually.

However, the growth in broadband connectivity also means an increase in the proliferation of piracy, which reduces the incentive of content innovators to create and erodes the desire of companies to invest. Illegal downloads, recording in movie theatres and other forms of intellectual property theft cost the creative industry dearly.

How can the creators of the entertainment and digital platforms we love continue to make a living from their work if we don’t protect them?

India and the US share a mutual interest in strengthening our intellectual property regimes for a wide range of products and sectors in order to grow our economies, including the music and entertainment industries and the information technology sector.

Fortunately, we are making important progress in our bilateral engagement to mitigate the threats of intellectual property theft and counterfeiting. Our two governments maintain a regular high-level working group to engage on intellectual property rights issues. In the US, we work tirelessly to stamp out markets for illicit goods within our own borders and partner with other governments to support them in doing the same. Just last week, in fact, US and Indian officials met in Washington to exchange ideas on best practices in the field of copyright protection.

We hope to expand cooperation with India to protect innovators and creators from intellectual property theft, and we look forward to the release of India’s new IP Policy, which we understand will further strengthen India’s intellectual property regime.

While our governments work to strengthen IP protection and enforcement, ordinary American and Indian citizens can also help. We are all familiar with counterfeit CDs and DVDs available for sale, and every day, we are seeing more and more digital piracy through illegal online sharing and streaming services. By avoiding counterfeit and pirated products altogether, we can directly support the artists who created the material, work together to combat crime in our communities, grow our economies, and promote the vibrant artistic and innovative cultures of India and the US.

By working together, we can safeguard our cultural diversity and economic prosperity by protecting the efforts of our most creative and innovative citizens and companies.

Richard R. Verma is the US ambassador to India.

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