Friday 25 February 2011

Be a copyright activist!

In a speech today WIPO Director General Francis Gurry set out his vision for the future of copyright:

History shows that it is an impossible task to reverse technological advantage and the change that it produces. Rather than resist it, we need to accept the inevitability of technological change and to seek an intelligent engagement with it. There is, in any case, no other choice – either the copyright system adapts to the natural advantage that has evolved or it will perish. Adaptation in this instance requires, in my view, activism.

I am firmly of the view that a passive and reactive approach to copyright and the digital revolution entails the major risk that policy outcomes will be determined by a Darwinian process of the survival of the fittest business model. The fittest business model may turn out to be the one that achieves or respects the right social balances in cultural policy. It may also, however, turn out not to respect those balances. The balances should not, in other words, be left to the chances of technological possibility and business evolution. They should, rather, be established through a conscious policy response.
He set out three guiding principles: neutrality to technology, simplifying copyright and a coherent policy response (including a key role for internet intermediaries, global licensing and inviting ‘pirates’ to share responsibility for the threat to the financial viability of culture).


Crosbie Fitch said...

The future for copyright is as a historical curiosity, a tricentenarian snowball that impossibly persisted for just over a decade in the 21st century's inferno of instantaneous diffusion.

Only faith can keep this anachronism going.

As to the mechanism for exchanging intellectual work for the money of those who would commission its production (disintermediated from the quaint mechanism of purchasing 'authorised' copies), well, I've already designed and produced this Contingency Market though there are surprisingly few people interested in such an exchange.

People still want to believe that to sell art is to sell copies, even if those copies cost nothing to make.

There's a lot of copyright deprogramming to be done.

DavidB said...

Much of the argument about copyright, both pro and con, assumes that the internet will continue indefinitely in its present Wild West state of anarchy. That is extremely implausible. There are far too many dangers in the present system, for Governments, businesses, infrastructure, and the general public, for anarchy to continue. Copyright infringement is not even the most important threat: national security, cybercrime, and cyberwarfare (Stuxnet being only the best-known case) are more powerful drivers for action by governments individualy and collectively. The question is not whether the internet will be more tightly regulated, but when, and how tightly. A new copyright regime will probably emerge as a by-product.

John R walker said...


Our government toyed with the idea of some sort of 'filtering' system ( against child pornography, terrorism so on) - it has gone into the too hard basket; the costs to web speeds and other collateral costs where too high. China has a degree of effective control of web use, china employs vast army's of web policemen to achieve this end. Would question the cost benefits( i.e long term viability) of enforcing regulation that is not based in a lot of community consent.

DavidB said...

I would draw a comparison between the internet and the early days of motor vehicles. When motor vehicles first emerged, around the 1880s, they were completely unregulated, unless they happened (as in England) to be caught by legislation intended for traction engines and the like. But now every civilised country has a mass of legislation governing vehicles, drivers, and driving, and a large proportion of law enforcement activity is involved with them.

In comparison, the internet is already as important to the economy and everyday life as motor vehicles, and capable of doing as much damage, if not usually in such visible form. Yet it is still almost totally unregulated, and only a tiny proportion of police resources is devoted to it. I just don't think this is sustainable. I don't know what forms of regulation will emerge, but I think at the very least there will be measures to prevent internet users concealing or falsifying their identity and location, just as it is illegal for drivers to conceal or falsify a number plate.

John R walker said...

Hard copy publishing is a variety of capital intensive, mechanical manufacturing/distribution , in all such manufacturing, labor costs are a relatively small component of the costs of production – there was/is a lot of ‘value adding’ going on.

In the digital ,post-mechanical, age of reproduction this is not the case, production capital costs per unit are very small- this difference , this very sudden ‘phase transition’ lies at the root of the current copyright wars.

Not so long ago being a pirate would have meant investing millions in presses and distribution networks- IE a pirate was risking a lot of dosh for little potential gain. Not surprisingly the industry became a cozey dozy gentleman's club, these days it is struggling to keep the club door closed.

Crosbie Fitch said...

DavidB, law is supposed to protect the people, not the monopolies desired by publishing corporations. Thus you can be sure that law will continue to protect people against communications that jeopardise their lives, violate their privacy, or deceive/defraud them. However, law that says man may not copy man (despite such being essential to man's progress since time immemorial) is an anachronistic privilege borne of Queen Anne's desire to protect her crown from sedition (courtesy of a beholden press), and it is doomed.

It is not a question of law vs lawlessness, but of natural law vs privilege. The question is brought to a head because the privilege of copyright has met its natural nemesis - the people and their natural right to copy (no longer annulled in the majority to leave it by exclusion in the hands of a few).

Just remember that liberty is a right of the people and while it may be easy to deny people a liberty they are not easily able to enjoy (utilising a massive and expensive press), it is a different matter when to learn, to communicate, and to progress is to copy - as it always has been.

It's not the people who are delinquent, but the law (thanks to Queen Anne and one of her admirers, James Madison).

John R walker said...

The solution to the Regency lawlessness crisis was not the abolition of property rights (or any other variety of radical answer so beloved by great men), it was the gradual, painful, reduction of the very concentrated privilege that had developed during the latter part of 18C and the spreading out of all sorts of property rights, copyrights and patent rights (as well as rights of representation) to a rapidly growing prosperous middle class, the nation of shop keepers for whom "his house is his castle".

The 'few' were nearly all "shopkeepers sons". They were fighting for their country.

What you are asking for is a protective tariff on all web users, law abiding businesses and pirate alike, in order to protect an uncompetitive ,very privileged, industry model.

DavidB said...

I don't know where John R Walker gets the idea that I am asking for a 'protective tariff'. I am just saying that I think the internet is bound to be more heavily regulated in future. This need not be expensive. Suppose for example that there is legislation to prohibit the supply or use of software whose primary purpose is to conceal or falsify an internet address. (Such software is at the moment easily available and apparently not illegal.) Anyone caught supplying or using such software could be fined or imprisoned, just like anyone who supplies or uses false license plates for cars. The fines would pay for the enforcement, and be paid only by the offenders.

John R walker said...

DavidB are you seriously saying that , currently, the fines and other penalties paid by lawbreakers actually pay for the costs of policing (let alone jails)?? What planet are you on ? It is definitely a tariff that you want us to pay to help defend the un-defendable

Anonymous said... sound like an HBGARY using industry Shill.Don't waste your lose!