Innovation vs. Regulation: how can we guarantee safety without killing innovation?

transcript of my introduction to the panel “Innovation vs. Regulation: how can we guarantee safety without killing innovation?”, Consumers Power 2019, Brussels, 12 novembre 2019

Innovation vs. Regulation: How can we guarantee safety without killing innovation? what a challenging question, isn’t?

Before starting, I’d like to tell you a story that takes us back to 1839 to a demonstration of the daguerreotype. The daguerreotype is the forerunner of the camera. In 1839, during a demonstration of the daguerreotype, the painter Paul Delaroche exclaimed “From today the painting is dead”.

Delaroiche was a portrait painter: the idea that a machine could reproduce in a few minutes what his job was, creating portraits of people, was devastating to him.

Paul Delaroiche was wrong: since then, painting has not died, despite the development of increasingly powerful cameras.

But Paul Delaroiche was also right: he knew that that invention would strongly reduce a certain type of painting and therefore he asked that the product of that technology was not protected by copyright. And indeed it has been so for a long time. For a long time (in Italy, for example, until 1979) the photographs were not protected by copyright

Every time we face a real innovation, some of us are scared. Professor James Boyle calls it “cultural agoraphobia”, the fear of open and unexplored spaces that every real innovation opens up. 

If it’s a real innovation, you don’t see it coming: it’s a puch in your face and, like a hit boxer, first you don’t understand what happened and then you ask someone (the legislator) to stop everything. 

It’s always like that. Since Paul Delaroche’s dagherrotype, nothing has really changed in the approach, because we are human after all (until an artificial intelligence replaces us). Every time a new technology enters the scene, we wonder how we will regulate it, and even before, whether it is right to regulate it or not

What is clear to me is that there can be no real innovation that does not benefit end consumers, citizens and individuals. The best way to avoid the degeneration typifying apocalyptic visions is to restore individuals to their central position in the development of the information society, while placing consumers and their legitimate economic interests firmly at the Centre of the emerging markets.

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