Is It Time For Copyright 2.0?
The calls are getting louder for an updated global copyright system to better address the fast evolving digital content economy of a hyper-connected world. The key question, it seems, would be where best to start?
An excellent article by Lawrence Lessig, in the Wall Street Journal, spells out the futility of trying to govern a digital content universe with an analogue biased copyright system. He also suggests five key changes to the copyright system that should set us in the right direction, and I have paraphrased / extended / commented on them, as follows:
1. Deregulate amateur remix – non-commercial and/or non-professional reuse of digital content should not be so tightly regulated. Amateur creativity should be encouraged and if, God forbid, it makes any money then the original creator should get a cut. What?
2. Deregulate the “copy” in Copyright – copyright is centered around the act of copying a work, however the digital realm is pervaded by this very activity (i.e. pretty much anytime content is transferred, played or otherwise reused), therefore digital copyright enforcement should be more focused on the use of the work rather than, as is currently the case, the act of copying (or perhaps “even making available for copying”, to stretch the point).
3. Simplify Copyright – Please make copyright clearer, and simpler to understand, for mere end-users and other “casual pirates” of content. We are not all big media companies with access to expensive lawyers (and a vulture culture for forensic litigation). Enough said.
4. Restore Efficiency – copyright is an inefficient property system, but since technology now makes it easier to enforce, it should be the responsibility of copyright owners to maintain their own copyright after a shorter, automatic, 14 year term. Therefore copyright owners would need to clearly state their claim on a work after the initial term expires. Hmmm. Not so sure about this one, but I’ll defer to Mr. Lessig’s legal expertise.
5. Decriminalise Generation-X – Stop suing the youth. File sharing is not going to stop anytime soon and legal actions do not seem to have slowed it down or compensated artistes in any significant way. It is now time to explore various options for ensuring that artistes get paid even in a file sharing world, period.
It certainly all sounds like a load of common sense, but I’ll leave you to make up your own minds. In the meantime, I think the best way forward may also benefit from the idea that, in a global digital content economy, (where content flows easily across national boundaries), we should seek to implement and embrace a global framework for copyright, in order to lessen the reliance on national systems that far too often add undue complexity to the notionally simple concept of Intellectual Property. This is, in many ways, similar to Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s call for an overhaul of the global financial regulatory system that would better serve the needs of a global financial economy. Perhaps the copyright system should also take heed before it suffers a similar fate.
Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.