23 June 2008

Copyright

I'm not a fan of copyright. I can see the argument behind having some level of copyright protection, but I think the way copyright is currently being used is completely unjustifiable. Copyright was originally introduced as a way to encourage scientific and artistic progress, for the benefit of the general public, by giving authors a way to make a living and therefore to encourage them to produce books. The key is that it was intended to work for the benefit of the public, not authors. The fact that it allowed authors to make a living was just a means to an end.

The major problem today is that some copyright holders, particularly the big film and music companies, like to portray copyright as being intended for their benefit, not the public's. As technology makes it easier to share and re-use information, they call for increasingly draconian controls on the use of technology. When video recorders first appeared, the film industry tried to have them banned. Now we are seeing a similar thing with the internet. The music and film industries are putting pressure on governments to enact increasingly draconian laws to limit people's use of technology and erode their privacy, even when their actions don't actually infringe copyright. All this is happening at a time when the general public, which is who copyright was originally intended to benefit, would be best served by reducing the scope of copyright to allow people to make optimum use of new technology.

If copyright is to be retained, I believe that the first step that needs to be taken to make it fit for the 21st Century is to restrict it so it only applies to commercial copying and distribution; so, the copyright holder would be able to charge a fee if somebody wishes to sell a copy of a film or a book, or play a song on a radio station which sells advertising, but if somebody shares a film, book or song with a friend without charging them, that should be none of the copyright holder's business. This would return the balance of copyright to what it originally was - an industrial regulation which provided a potential revenue stream for authors without interfering with the basic freedom of the public.

I believe there are other restrictions which get treated as part of copyright, but are really more closely related to defamation and fraud, which should be retained, irrespective of whether or not copyright is. Those restrictions are the right not to have a piece of work re-used in a misleading way (such as somebody using quotes from a book out of context to misrepresent what the author meant) and the right to insist that anybody re-using a work doesn't mislead others about who the original author was.

I also believe that if copyright exists, it should never be applied for a period longer than the average human lifespan, never extended for works which are already in existence and not be granted for works which are published with DRM technology applied to them.

While I believe that copyright should never allow right holders to prevent use if it is not commercial, defamatory or unattributed, I don't usually want to exert that much control over what I write and I am generally happy to waive the commercial restriction, for the simple reason that most of what I write is expressions of opinion and as such, I would like them to reach the widest audience possible.

So, Unless specified otherwise, any text in one of my blog postings for which I hold the copyright is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Licence, which, in simple terms, allows the re-use of the text, so long as the original source is made clear (by quoting my name and the url of the original work), it is made clear if any amendment or editing has been carried out and the text is not used in a defamatory way, such as using it out of context to distort the meaning. Any work based on the original work must also be made available under the same licence. By "url of the original work" I mean the url of the individual posting, not of the whole blog.

So, for a web post making use of the text at "http://plockett.blogspot.com/2009/01/patent-value-taxation.html", you could put:

Text taken from a posting by Paul Lockett, used under a CC-BY-SA licence.

If you produced it on paper, you'd have to put the urls of the posting and the licence as text rather than links.

If you do re-use any of the material on the site, I would appreciate it if you let me know, although it isn't a compulsory requirement.

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