Tuesday 1 May 2012

Entrenched bias, or a natural consequence of copyright?

Anti-consumer bias? It's
bound to exist -- but
is it benign or malignant?
" 'Entrenched Anti-Consumer Bias' Found In Copyright Laws; Creators Launch Petition For Better Contracts" is the title of this fascinating post by William New on Intellectual Property Watch, which he edits. The data on which this is based has been collaged by London-based Consumers International and is published in its fourth annual IP Watchlist report, which you can study in full here.

That consumers find anti-consumer bias in copyright laws is no more surprising than turkeys finding anti-turkey bias in Christmas celebrations -- but this is not a promising analogy. For, while turkeys are reared for the purpose of being slaughtered and consumed, consumers are at least in theory supposed to be subjected to copyright for their ultimate benefit. This benefit is conferred in general and negative terms, limiting consumers' freedom for their own good, for the sake of the encouragement of science and useful arts, as well as in specific and positive terms, preventing the enforcement of copyright where the otherwise-unauthorised user can avail himself of its defences and exceptions for such laudable purposes as do not conflict with the copyright owner' expectation to earn his humble crust. Some countries manage this better than others, at least on paper. Others have tough laws but little facility for their effective enforcement. Each of these criteria will affect consumer perceptions one way or the other.

This blogger is (i) a creator of copyright-protected material who expects to earn something from it, (ii) a conduit through which other people's copyright works pass, whether with express, implied, statutory or fervently hoped-for permission, and (iii) a consumer of other people's copyright protected works. Accordingly he reckons he can benefit from any position that the law takes with regard to consumer-friendliness but -- with his personal interest being split between so many competing interests -- he'd prefer a good balance in which the creative tensions of equilibrium of creator, conduit and consumer each hold the others in check.

For the record, the five most consumer-friendly jurisdictions for IP consumers were found to be Israel, Indonesia, India, New Zealand and the United States; the five least favourable to consumers were named as Jordan, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Thailand and Brazil. Commendably, the authors of the Consumer International report name their national respondents, so you can see for yourself who they are and from where their expertise derives.

Thanks go to Chris Torrero for spotting this.

1 comment:

Andy J said...

By way of a counter-vailing take on this subject see Andrew Orlowski's piece here:The Register
In my humble opinion I think Orlowski has it right.