Links: Copyright Reform; Who Will Benefit?

UK copyright laws to be reviewed, announces CameronAs part of his announcements about trying to create "Silicon East End", David Cameron announced a review of UK copyright law. "The founders of Google have said they could never have started their...


  • UK copyright laws to be reviewed, announces Cameron

    As part of his announcements about trying to create "Silicon East End", David Cameron announced a review of UK copyright law.

    "The founders of Google have said they could never have started their company in Britain. ... Over there [in the US], they have what are called 'fair-use' provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services. So I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age. I want to encourage the sort of creative innovation that exists in America."

    If this actually leads to liberty-enhancing changes to the UK's laws, them I'm delighted. But the track record of this government so far has been to announce good things and then actually do bad things - LibDem spin shamelessly disguising old-fashioned Tory policies. And the timing - slightly pre-empting Nellie Kroes - is suspicious.

    I greatly fear this moment being seized by corporate interests to introduce draconian enforcement measures and easier patenting to "balance" the introduction of fair-use provisions. Those provisions sound more like "safe harbour" than "fair use" anyway and are framed suspiciously as if they are only to benefit business and not citizens.

    We need to watch this like hawks, as having created the opportunity for review the game is now on, and citizen interests don't have the lobbyists, the lobbying money or the appeal to civil service procedures that commercial interests do.

  • A digital world of opportunities

    This speech by Neelie Kroes (European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda) is worth reading in full, but the following extract explains the need for copyright reform beautifully:

    "Today our fragmented copyright system is ill-adapted to the real essence of art, which has no frontiers. Instead, that system has ended up giving a more prominent role to intermediaries than to artists. It irritates the public who often cannot access what artists want to offer and leaves a vacuum which is served by illegal content, depriving the artists of their well deserved remuneration. And copyright enforcement is often entangled in sensitive questions about privacy, data protection or even net neutrality.

    It may suit some vested interests to avoid a debate, or to frame the debate on copyright in moralistic terms that merely demonise millions of citizens. But that is not a sustainable approach. We need this debate because we need action to promote a legal digital Single Market in Europe."

    These remarks are perhaps the ones Cameron was set up to pre-empt. They clearly summarise the real challenge, which is not about giving Google a safe harbour but rather about enabling creators of culture and citizens to evolve their behaviour without the ossifying interference of the intermediaries of the old era getting in the way - unless they truly have value and opportunity to offer.

    This is the approach I hope Cameron's mandarins will follow, rather than the narrow protection of vested interests his remarks seem to imply.

  • Free Software Could Exist Without Copyright - Stallman

    Although open source software depends on copyright licenses to manage the software freedoms involved, this interview with Richard Stallman from July makes clear that the principles of software freedom don't depend on copyright law being as it is today.

  • Lessig Calls For WIPO To Lead Overhaul Of Copyright System

    Lawrence Lessig is one of the more visible thinkers about copyright reform, and his comments at the WIPO Global Meeting last week were important. He said:

    "A functioning copyright system must provide the incentives needed for creative professionals, but must also protect the freedoms necessary for scientific research and amateur creativity to flourish."
    and went on to explain (as he has in his books) how the fact that all digital use technically involves making a copy first means the reach of copyright law has unintentionally extended from the realm of distributors of works to the realm of readers/listeners and to small-scale creative activity that was never within scope before. He said that
    The copyright system will “never work on the internet. It’ll either cause people to stop creating or it’ll cause a revolution,”
    and it's this issue that needs attention, rather than Cameron's attempt to patch and mend existing copyright provisions in situ.
  • Should we have fair use in the UK?

    Jordan Hatcher argues that the introduction of US-style "fair use" exceptions to copyright law should not replace, but should supplement, existing UK "fair dealing" provisions as their different styles in law make them both useful.

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