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At the end of March I was invited speaker at a workshop on “Balancing Intellectual Property Claims and the Freedom of Art and Communication” at Bielefeld University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF). My talk was mainly based upon thoughts sketched out in two posts from the series on “Algorithm Regulation” on this blog:
- Algorithm Regulation #9: YouTube and the Comeback of Copyright Registration
- Algorithm Regulation #10: YouTube as a Transnational Rights Clearing Center
This week the EU Commission published its report (PDF) on responses to the public consultation on EU copyright held earlier this year. The consultation had drawn a comparably high number of responses with a total of about 11,000 messages, not least due to initiatives such as fixcopyright.eu (targeting end users) and creatorsforeurope.eu (targeting authors and performers). While over at IPKat copyright buffs are already delving into the details of the report, I tried to have a look at the bigger picture here: what do we learn about the state of copyright at large? And what overall direction should copyright reform take? With regard to both questions the report is quite instructive because of its clear and straightforward structure.
The report is structured along the 80 questions of the consultation, which are distributed across 24 issue sections. Within each of these issue sections, the report distinguishes between the different stakeholder groups that took part in the consultation (see chart below).
The Council of Europe has invited me to contribute the following input paper (PDF) on “Need for New Regulation to Enhance Creativity in the Digital Age: The Cases of User-generated Content and Cultural Heritage Institutions” for the Conference on “Creating an enabling environment for digital culture and for empowering citizens”, taking place 4-5 July 2014, Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the course of growing economic importance of knowledge and of technological change related with the Internet and digitization, regulations of knowledge and information goods have increasingly become an issue of transnational contestation. Particularly the role of copyright law has changed since virtually all forms of online communication and interaction requires copying and distributing content, thereby becoming copyright-related. In a way, copyright laws have become the core regulatory device for the digital information society in general and digital creative practices in particular.
At the same time, we can observe that regulatory struggles in the copyright realm date way back. Already Kant (1785) and Fichte (1793) distinguished between different functional groups affected by copyright laws, among which publisher/copyright owner, author/creator, and consumer/user represent the most important. These groups are still the ones most affected by copyright regulation, even though today copyright also covers cinematographic work and computer programs and it is possible to reproduce nearly all types of work in digital form. Balancing the interests of these groups is therefore still the main task for copyright regulators on the international and the national level.
And while technological change has always provided both opportunities for new forms of creativity and problems for pre-existing business models in the copyright realm (Wu 2010), the all-encompassing and highly dynamic impact of new digital technology on nearly all fields and types of creative activities brings with it enormous regulatory challenges. First, digitization makes it possible to distinguish between content and medium – a constellation that is of major importance for the copyrighted content industry since it sells CDs, DVDs, and books, not music, movies, or novels. From a regulation perspective, this means that new rules – be they publicly legislated or privately enforced via license agreements – tend to more directly address particular usage practices, affecting traditional knowledge brokers such as archives, libraries or museums. Second, loss- and lag-free copying of digital contents via personal computers and the Internet enable new forms of private copying and peer-to-peer distribution of content on a massive scale. The regulation challenge related to this issue is to allow for these new technologies to enfold while at the same time prevent a massive increase in copyright infringement due to piracy. Third, thanks to decreasing production and distribution costs, many more people actively engage in content creation and make their works accessible directly to the public (sometimes referred to as ‘user-generated content’), thereby often re-using and transforming pre-existing copyrighted works. How to regulate these new forms of derivative creativity and creative consumption is again a task for regulators to address. Read the rest of this entry »
When discussing national copyright legislation with lawyers, most discussions end relatively quickly with reference to the inherent necessities of international treaties. Legalize non-commercial file-sharing? In conflict with the Berne three-step test, which is included in the TRIPs Agreement, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the EU Copyright Directive and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (see also the Declaration on the Three-Step Test by the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property in Munich). Introduce a so-called cultural flat-rate (see also “Extending Private Copying Levies“)? Not in line with the Three-Step Test, either. Shorten copyright terms below the 50 year threshold? Impossible, at least for WTO member states, which have to abide to the TRIPs Agreement.
And there is, of course, some truth in the prevailing view that most aspects of copyright legislation are already mapped out by international law, leaving national legislatures with only little room for maneuver. Nevertheless, two recent and very antagonistic examples of national copyright reform efforts show that this national leeway is not so small after all.
In sharp contrast to European tendencies to increase scope and length of copyright protection, the Brazilian copyright reform proposal put forward by the governing Worker’s Party includes wide exceptions for non-profit educational uses, a reduction of the copyright term from 70 to 50 years, and it even flirts with the introduction of a cultural flat-rate (see vgrass; an English version of the proposal: PDF). One of the most striking clauses in the bill deals with circumvention of copy protection measures (so-called “DRM“), as is reported by Michael Geist:
Not only does the proposal permit circumvention for fair dealing and public domain purposes, but it establishes equivalent penalties for hindering or preventing the users from exercising their fair dealing rights. In other words, the Brazilian proposals recognizes what the Supreme Court of Canada stated several years ago – over-protection is just as harmful as under-protection. Read the rest of this entry »