Innovation Economy: Wealth Embedded in Ideas— An Interview with John Howkins, Father of Creative Industry

2011/04/14,By Sarah Luo, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

John Howkins, father of the creative industry, advocator of “copyright is the currency of the creative economy,” forerunner of digital media, and business and government consultant to more than 20 countries, once observed that creation was private subjective thinking, different from invention, which was objective, and a result of team work. “Creation frequently leads to invention, but invention would not necessarily bring about creation,” which delineated a subtle distinction between the two. John Howkins is considered a master in the eyes of many successful people in the creative business. 9 years ago his book The Creative Economy published in 2001 predicted that the value of intangible assets created by humankind would eventually exceed that of our physical materials, and inventiveness and creativeness are the core competitive edge of a country’s social and economical development.Regarding this man, and his creative economy, many a story flows around. China IP conducted an exclusive interview with him on topics such as his application of creative ideas, the relationship between creative economy and intellectual property, his suggestions on the application of creative theory in China and his understanding of the prospect of traditional media.
China IP: How does creativity turn to business profit? Could you share with us your successful creative industry management?
Mr. Howkins: Creativity is using one’s imagination to add value to an idea. For instance, I may have an idea for a film or a new design. I can develop it myself or work with other people. Usually, I need to work with other people who have special expertise, money, equipment, etc. In that way; I can build and develop my idea. Therefore, it gains more value. In my TV/film business, I may buy an idea or a script for a small amount of money and sell it for much more. To be successful, we have to know the value of ideas and the market for ideas. For a creative economy to flourish, we need to have open and competitive markets. We need to be willing to take risks in spending money on good ideas.
China IP: What is the relationship between creative economy and intellectual property?
Mr. Howkins: IP is the basic currency of the creative economy. It is how people assert ownership, how they control the usage and how they set prices. It is very important for the media industries like film and TV, which require large investments.
We have to accept that digital media are challenging the traditional views of ownership, control right and price. They are changing the whole concept of copying.
One solution is to tighten IP and havestronger enforcement but his will solve only part of the problem. It is more important to rethink our business models. Content owners (rightsholders) have to devise new business models to take account of the realities of digital media.
China IP: You have proposed three principles: (1) Every one is born creative, with an imagination (the universality principle), (2) we need freedom to exercise this creativity and (3) this freedom needs markets so we can buy and sell freely. How does the copyright management influence those three elements?
Mr. Howkins: Everyone must continue to learn through their life. For this, we need access to knowledge. Therefore, copyright must allow access to knowledge. It must allow people to express their creativity freely. Sometimes, copyright management is too strict.
China IP: Is your creative economy concept applicable to China? If not exactly, which aspects need to be improved?
Mr. Howkins: China is already using the principles of the creative economy in its domestic market. However, it could use them more widely and successfully. In addition, it has not yet fully used these ideas for exports.
China IP: How do you think of the development of China’s creative industry? Once you mentioned that China’s creative industry lacks distinctiveness, to what does the distinctiveness refer?
Mr. Howkins: China has always had its own distinctive style. I mean that the Chinese are beginning to develop their own approach to contemporary creative industries. China has a very strong culture and heritage, but its contemporary style is not yet as distinctive as American, Japanese or Italian style. Chinese products sell more on their low cost than their creative inputs. The demand for Chinese media, fashion, etc, abroad is quite low. The majority of people want to watch American movies, buy Italian fashions, and drive European and American cars – not yet Chinese movies, fashion, and cars.
China IP: Major Chinese cities’ emphasis on creative industry varies. For example, Beijing emphasizes industry cluster and policy supporting; Shanghai leans towards scientific development. Which city do you think has the greatest potential on creative industry? Why?
Mr. Howkins: All major cities have potential. Beijing and Shanghai are leading at the moment. However, other cities have the opportunity as well. Each city should develop its own style. This happens internationally. In America, for example, New York and Los Angeles are very different, so are Milan and Rome in Italy. Of course, China’s central planning tends to equalize developments among cities. Nevertheless, specific cities and districts are developing their own reputation, as are individuals and companies.
China IP: Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, said that in five years Internet will replace television and radio to take the first place in media. As a leader of the media industry, what is your opinion on Eric’s prediction?
Mr. Howkins: He is right. However, the word ‘media’ is so big that different elements develop at different times. Feature films are still made in the same way and still firstly shown in cinemas, and the number of TV viewers in Europe and America, as well as China, is increasing, not decreasing. However, overall, the digital space of the Internet is the main arena, the main battleground. According to our survey, young people in the top 20 industrialized countries would rather give up their Internet access (75%) than their TV set (25%). Here, again, we must ask, is China satisfied with having big Chinese companies dominant in China but with little global presence or does China want its companies to expand globally? At the moment, the Chinese companies seem happy to dominate in China while allowing American companies to dominate in the rest of the world. I expect this to change soon. The Chinese companies that do move internationally will also become stronger in China.
Offering creative strategy to Blair government
As most are aware, Britain was the first country to enter urbanization. After the industrial revolution in the 18th century, Britain sped up its urbanization. By the 1980s and 1990s, over 90% of the population was clustered in the major cities occupying only 10% of total land area. When hearing the term of “Britain disease,” many people still have lingering fear. Many side effects such as environmental pollution, ecological degeneration, and urban crimes were introduced during the process of urbanization.
However, “Creative economy” brings Britain new hope. When Blair became British Prime Minister in 1997, he took Howkins’ proposal of transiting from the manufacture industry to creative industry. In 1998, Britain issued Creative Industries Mapping Document and became the first country in the world to adopt a national strategy to push the development of the creative industry. The British government claimed to have overcome most of the difficulties to help creative talents realize their dreams and ambitions. According to a set of statistics, the cultural creative industry alone creates an annual output value of GBP one hundred billion. The term “creative economy” used by Howkins is broad, covering fifteen creative industries extending from arts to wider fields of science and technology. According to his estimate, in the year 2009, the creative economy was worth USD 3.4 trillion worldwide. Since 1995 it has grown at a speed of 5 percent annually.
As an authority on creative economy, Howkins stresses that by absorbing the driving force for development from individuals’ creativity, ability and talent, and emphasizing the development and application of intellectual property, a creative economy can create tremendous potential wealth and job opportunities. He further said artists do not monopolize creativity. Anybody, whether he is a scientist or an artist or anyone with imagination, has creativity. According to his analysis, the development of a global creative economy is now facing four challenges, namely, the cultivation of creative factors, the value standards of creative economy, intellectual property and social collaboration. For Howkins, the best thing of a day is getting up with creative ideas.
Director of intellectual property charter
The first British copyright law, the Statute of Anne, took effective in 1710. Since then, it has experienced three hundred years of development and established the base for modern copyright law. Most countries’ copyright legislation was greatly influenced by the Statute of Anne. The original definition of copyright describes a relationship between a printer and a copyright owner. In China’s Song Dynasty, there were bans on the unauthorized reprinting of books. Because of various historical reasons, the copyright regulation has long remained at the original level.
Nowadays, the copyright concept worldwide has been greatly changed. Copyright industry not only has a legal meaning, but also has a significant impact on business and financing. “Intellectual property is the currency of our new era; the national copyright bureau is the central bank of the 21st century.” Said Howkins at the 2nd International Copyright Expo in Beijing. Only when a good “idea” is bestowed with some form, can the idea bring money. Fifty years ago, only a few people knew about copyright and they managed it on a professional basis. Today, it involves everybody who uses the Internet. Moreover, today’s business models built on mutual collaboration raise more demands on copyright management. The cooperation among capital, equipment, talents, and technology is a very complicated process, but also a rather fragile process.
Forerunner of digital media
Mr. Howkins is the executive chairman of Tornado Productions Ltd, which provides web casting to corporate and media. He is busy with his associations with most major media organizations in the world. Regarding IPR, he has advised ABC, Andersen Consulting, BBC, Coopers & Lybrand, European Commission, IBM, ICL, ITV, etc. His first visit to China occurred in 1979. In1982, he finished the book Communications in China, which tells readers of China’s development in TV, movies, publications and communication industries.

Confronted with strong competition from digital media, traditional media are now having a hard road to hoe. Not long ago, Bill Gates predicated that three years from now, the revenue of global network ads would reach USD 3 billion, which is equal to the total amount of ads revenue from global newspaper ads. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, also said confidently that the Internet would replace TV and radio. Mr. Howkins told China IP that he does not deny the rapid growth of digital media. Nevertheless, he insists on the significance of the influence of traditional media on the past generation as well as the new.

Member Message

  • Only our members can leave a message,so please register or login.

International IP Firms
Inquiry and Assessment

Latest comments

Article Search


People watch

Online Survey

In your opinion, which is the most important factor that influences IP pledge loan evaluation?

Control over several core technologies for one product by different right owners
Stability of ownership of the pledge
Ownership and effectiveness of the pledge