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In its recent „Special Report“ on copyright protection and enforcement (498 pages, PDF) to the US Trade Representative, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recommeded keeping Indonesia on the „watch list“. One of the major reasons given for this recommendation (PDF) was the following:

„Worse yet, instead of focusing attention on piracy and solutions to the problem, the government retained onerous market access barriers […] and added new restrictions. For example, in March 2009, the Ministry of Administrative Reform (MenPAN) issued Circular Letter No. 1 of 2009 to all central and provincial government offices including State-owned enterprises, endorsing the use and adoption of open source software within government organizations. While the government issued this circular in part with the stated goal to “reduc[e] software copyright violation[s],” in fact, by denying technology choice, the measure will create additional trade barriers and deny fair and equitable market access to software companies.“

In what follows, the paper argues that endorsing the adoption of open source software „fails to build respect for intellectual property rights“. While this opposition towards open source software can be explained by the fact that the Business Software Alliance, which is dominated by proprietary software vendors such as Microsoft, is among the most influential IIPA member organizations, others share the basic concern. The Austrian researcher Stefan Weber, for example, similarly decries a declining respect for intellectual property and a rise of plagiarism – something he refers to as the „Google-Copy-Paste-Syndrome“; he also links alternative licensing such as Creative Commons with an allegedly dropping respect for authors’ copyrights (see pp. 34-35 in Maurer et al. 2007, PDF). Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday the Swedish “Pirat Partiet” (“Pirate Party”) actually made it into the European Parliament with 7.1 percent of the vote (see press release). According to exit polls, the Pirat Partiet got 19 percent of the votes cast by young voters (18-30 years of age). This is remarkable for a single-issue party. But while the Swedish results can to a large degree be explained by the enormous attention for copyright issues around the Pirate Bay trial, the German “Piratenpartei” got nearly 1 percent (about 230.000 votes), as well. There, the pirate party reached its best results in urban areas with large universities such as Bremen, Frankfurt or Gießen (read about the results of the German pirate party at (German) or in Google English).

Given the fact that the Swedish Pirat Partiet as the first pirate party was founded not before 2006, the global proliferation of pirate parties is impressive: Currently, the international pirate party site ( lists 23 countries “where you can find a Pirate Party, or where one is starting up”. All pirate parties share a principle opposition towards the prevalent copyright regime in general and criminalization of peer-to-peer file-sharing in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

At the workshop „Mashing-up Culture: The Rise of User-generated Content“, which had been perfectly organized by Eva Hemmungs-Wirtén of Uppsala University in Sweden, Sigrid and I not only presented a paper on “The Copyright Dispute” (see resources page for paper and slides respectively), but I also had the great pleasure of meeting Niva Elkin-Koren. She is not only project lead of Creative Commons Israel but does very instructive research on copyright licensing and governance in the realm of digital communities (see SSRN-page for details).

One of her most recent papers, titled “Governing Access to User-Generated-Content: The Changing Nature of Private Ordering in Digital Networks”, is of particular relevance for scholars of transnational governance: Most of the new digital communities and their respective carrier platforms such as Facebook, YouTube or Wikipedia are “born globals”. Their regulation, be it (seemingly) unilateral via terms of service (see “Private Copyright Regimes: Facebook”) or multilateral via optional licensing (see, for example, Flickr), represents a form of transnational private ordering. At the same time, the pace of technological change and the blurring boundaries between the commercial and the non-commercial sphere make this field particularly promising for studying (collisions of) transnational governance regimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Three days ago, on May 5, the Economist started a week-long public debate under the headline “Copyright and wrongs: this house believes that existing copyright laws do more harm than good.” In his opening remarks, Kenneth Cukier gives the following rationale for hosting the debate:

Copyright strangles creativity. Copyright rewards originality. It is a nuisance to the public that unduly enriches a few people. It is the backbone of our knowledge economy that fuels progress. Hate it, love it, break it, protect it; few people lack strong opinions about copyright and its place in society.

As debaters, the Economist invited Harvard’s copyright critic William Fisher and Justin Hughes from Yeshiva University as an advocat of the prevalent copyright regime. While both present utilitarian arguments rooted in standard neoclassical economics for their oppositional claims – which, by the way, demonstrates how arbitrary mainstream economic reasoning can be -, the former also gives a short explanation for the, in his view, distorted development of copyright legislation in his first statement:

How did we get into this pickle? At least three intertwined causes seem to be at work. First, most recent adjustments in the copyright system have been spurred and shaped by interest groups that have stakes in expansion of copyright protection and that fail to take into account the interests of the public as a whole. Second, the multilateral intellectual-property treaties that now govern most countries establish floors, not ceilings. The result has been a ratchet: it is easy to increase the levels of legal protection, but hard to decrease them. Third, lawmakers are afflicted with the local maximum problem; they seek to alleviate problems by making modest improvements in the existing regime, unable to see across the valley to radically different approaches that would be much better. Read the rest of this entry »

In theory, copyright first and foremost belongs to the creator of any new work. In practice, creators are often forced to give up their copyright completely. Most researchers, for example, who need to publish in high impact journals have hardly any choice but handing over it their copyright to journal publishers. Or, Musicians cannot exclude some of their works from the terms of their copyright collectives to publish them under alternative licenses. By joining a collecting society like the German GEMA you trade certain parts of your copyright for the right to receive royalty payments. GEMA’s terms of service, however, are non-negotiable for individual musicians: like it or leave it. (see “Competition for Copyright Collectives“).

In many sectoral contexts private copyright regimes more or less completely replace the logic of (inter-)national copyright legislation.  Mostly this is due to private standardization and respective network effects: if the individual benefits of adopting a standard depend on the total number of adopters,  “exit” is not an option. People dissatisfied with such a private copyright regime are only left with the possibility of “voice”, thereby revealing the inherently political nature of private copyright regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
February 2017
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