Wednesday 8 September 2010

Copyright, Friend and Foe when Accessing Knowledge

massai lion hunt (2) Access to Knowledge, it’s one issue where you will generally find copyright law lounging smack dab in the middle.  Sometimes copyright is friendly to the surrounding circle, like old Uncle Bob at the campfire, delighting the audience with wonderful tales of giving people access to works through fancy tricks like fair dealing.  Other times, copyright is more like a lion surrounded by warriors, roaring, teeth bared, snarling at anyone trying to gain access to its domain.

One might think that being able to tell Uncle Bob from an attacking lion would be easy, but not necessarily.  And likewise with, it is not always easy to tell when copyright is helping people get access to knowledge, and when it’s impeding that access.  Enter Consumers International and the 2nd Edition of Access to Knowledge, a Guide for Everyone (144pg pdf).

This internationally compiled book explains how copyright law and other areas such as net neutrality, border enforcement and patent law affect people’s access to resources around the world.  The book also discusses ideas for changes to intellectual property law that could help improve access to knowledge and current in-place systems that grant access, such as the public domain.

There’s a neat section in chapter one (p. 21) that explains how the different players, governments, inter-governmental organizations, consumer groups, etc., interact to create the landscape of accessible knowledge.  And in chapter 2, Brazil receives a bit of attention for the country’s forward-thinking laws prohibiting the destruction of fair use via technical protection methods. 

Readers following the ACTA debates may be interested in pages 57-59.  Those unfamiliar with Access to Knowledge can check out the FAQ section and glossary in the appendix.

Access to Knowledge A Guide for Everyone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which means you can print out fancy copies you want, give them away, even sell them, without a problem; Uncle Bob won’t bite.

Photo by author: Masai Lion Hunt exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum with author’s friends and family reenacting the exhibit.  More exhibit reenactions here.

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