Sunday, 18 October 2009

A royal view on copyright...

I was reading the paper at the weekend and came across an interesting article by Pelle Snickars, head of research at Kungliga Biblioteket  - the Swedish Royal Library.  The article discusses the Google books project and the ramifications of the internet on the availability and distribution of our common culture - in particular it draws attention to the majority of the books being scanned which are not in the public domain - but not commercially available either.  Orphaned works that are effectively lost to our collective online heritage.  It is a state of affairs that he ascribes to over-extensive copyright.. 

"A series of independent studies have shown that cultural products such as books, music or films have a commercial value on the market during a five-to ten-year period. With some extremely few exceptions – and Google Book Search is about the General rather than the particulate – then demand drops dramatically. Even if  the "long tail" in the long term will perhaps extend the commercial potential for various cultural products, it is a consumption pattern that will continue for a further period. For example, when American copyright demanded that copyright owners extended their rights after 28 years, it was less than 15% that bothered to. The incentive to extend rights to a commodity that no longer generates profit was fairly negligible.

That almost nine out of ten copyright owners did not find it worthwhile to renew their rights ought to be a cause for reflection, but developments have rather gone the other way. As several network activists and progressive law professors have said, the extension of the terms of protection over the past decades have been unusually narrow-minded given how the Internet developed during the same period. Future historians will in all probability be asked how the lawmakers were thinking that could  lock in the whole cultural production of the 20th century at the same time as the Web was developing as a global distribution channel available to all citizens."
(translated by Bing.. with a bit of help from me..)
Laws should be about getting the best deal for society - but clearly today copyright fails to deliver.   It's no coincidence that Piratpartiet are advocating greatly reduced copyright duration to bring back the balance between creators and society.  If you don't believe me, go to the library and look it up...

Piratpartiet & The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

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