I recently attended the 2010 Copyright Forum that the British Council organised to mark the 300th anniversary of the Statute of Queen Anne. It seems that the majority of the audience agreed on the following points, namely:
• the current copyright regime is inadequate and probably the result of the general laziness of authors, politicians, and publishers (in a lateral sense) who have not adapted their fundamental structures to the changing technology and needs;
• copyright has gone too far and the public is increasingly concerned about preserving the commons and the public domain; however, the expectation is to have completely free and unrestricted access to information and material;
• copyright encourages creation by rewarding authors; however, copyright clearance (the equivalent to Freedom to Operate in patents) has become too lengthy and expensive, so much so as to hinder creativity itself;
• using and sharing information and data can only increase knowledge, and only attribution should be a matter of concern;
• technology should be seen as the solution rather than the problem to the current condition; authors should carve out what users are not allowed to do rather than the other way round (effectively what Creative Commons does);
• too many restrictions prevent the use of knowledge and information in a way which could potentially benefit developing countries as in the case of poor scientists who should have access openly and freely.
I think we cannot disagree with the above considerations. However, I would like to make a few further comments:
1. How effective are these kind of discussions? There is a common agreement that copyright should serve culture and education and that new legal frameworks, which enable the use and sharing of information, should be developed. Yet, secretive discussions on anti-counterfeiting (and beyond) rules without any degree of transparency are going on.
2. Discussions should not be confined to national levels. Today’s technology allows users in every part of the world to access work and information no matter where it is created and held. Therefore, the principles and rules of how to protect, guarantee the use/reproduction/dissemination etc., and exploit to the author’s benefit need to have a global prospective.
3. Are we really sure that without copyright protection innovation and productivity would not continue? Or are we effectively merely concerned with the preservation of economic monopoly (as in the case of Walt Disney)?
4. Developing countries need to be careful with the copyright system they adopt and/or enforce. It seems to me that the risk for countries which mimic the developed world is that the different background and conditions will lead to a friction within the system. However, at the same time, those countries which do not have a copyright regime yet, have in front of them a clean sheet upon which they can draw a set of rules and practices which would not be encumbered by the same practices that have and are currently hampering our countries.
Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP
This post was a follow up to our previous blog item on the Copyright Forum. Click HERE to view our submission prior to the event. For further information and discussion about this initiative you can visit these pages of counterpoint online.