Saturday, May 19, 2007

Copyright Alliance

We see ourselves as the good guys, the Rebel Alliance if you will. In the beginning, as with Lucas' fictional rag-tag group who "realized the Empire had absolutely no regard to the rights, or even the lives, of its citizens...", and to Peter Jackson's interpretation of a petite and unwilling leader who fought against "dark forces gathering to the west...", both legions, in the end, won.

Enter The Copyright Alliance, a better organized and financed group of organizations with the single aim of resisting the attempts to overthrow the constitutionally endowed rights for creators to possess, for a limited period of time, a monopoly of their creations. Those dark forces are the populus who runs fast and loose with people's rights.

At their announcement of the formalization, Thursday May 17th, James Gibson, University of Richmond Law Professor, cited the example of the many of us who exceed the speed limit. When we do, we break the law, and as with that, when we are caught, we pay the price, he posited. Many infringers, like speeders, see only the infringement as risky if caught, and then, without registration, there is no true punishment, as the recoverable is almost always severely limited, and so, speeders and infringers prevail. So much so, that people seen driving only the speed limit are looked at as antiquated - the grannies of the road - caught in a time warp of reality, where speeding, and, analagously, infringing, is just de rigueur.

Most people who have driven through Georgia, for example, know that you drive 55mph, not 56. Those Georgia troopers enforce the speed limit to the letter. In New York City, everyone knows, "don't block the box", and drive long enough in your own community, you know where the speed traps are. So too, should potential infringers respect the laws - and rights - of those who are the creators.

The Copyright Alliance is working to ensure creators rights are protected. But the Dark Forces to the West are growing, establishing a front, and seeking organizations to chip away at the methodoligies used to protect the artist's right to restrict uses of their works. They have sought to push forward broad-reaching Orphan Works legislation. Many agree that some well thought out version of Orphan Works will be the solution to the critical preservation needs of archivists looking to save images and movies that are being lost to the degradation that occurs over time. That photos that are found in a shoebox at a garage sale might have limited commercial value or intention to commercially be exploited. Yet, blanket protections afforded across the board are what's on the table, and that's just not fair.

Consider that copyright is afforded the citizenry in the first 1,600 words of the Constitution. Consider then, that issues like gun rights, slavery, and equal rights for women were things that were missing and needed to be fixed. The framers considered copyright so important that it was integral to the initial document, yet other important issues were forgotten. Try, instead, dismissing copyright as irrelevant, suggesting that slavery or equal rights for women, are irrelevant. Those dismissals, as with copyright, also are offensive to me.

Among those penning articles about the group are Variety, CNET, Reuters, and Broadcasting & Cable.

You must fight for your rights as a creative. Stand up and be counted. Engage in the dialog and debate. Recognize too, that, where you're reading this not as a US citizen, but rather, around the world, that the world is watching. How we treat copyright can become cracks in the copyright of your own countries.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

I can't say I trust the Copyright Alliance. Their membership is telling of what they are about. Members include MPAA (movie industry), Disney, MLB (baseball league), NAB (radio broadcasting) and the RIAA (music industry). None of the groups I've mentioned have been very reasonable in the issue of copyright or consumer rights and many have done more harm than good. The actions of the RIAA, MPAA and Disney are the exact reason we are in the mess we are in today with issues such as orphan works and they constantly are fighting to diminish fair use rights (also established in the constitution and defined in 200 years of case law).

Ars Technica is worth a read.

While I agree Copyright is extremely important, it is only 1/3rd of the whole story. Fair use and the public domain (also defined in the constitution) make up the other two parts. All three have been bastardized in recent times. More-so for fair use and public domain with absurd copyright term extensions and laws such as the DMCA.

Without a doubt Copyright law needs to be updated to account for modern technology but it does not need to be strengthened. The bigger problem is the lack of education about copyright law. It's a subject that's not even mentioned in schools. If the public had a better understanding of such matters, they'd have more respect for it.

You mentioned the orphan works issue but nothing like it needs to be implemented. The whole reason orphan works is a problem is because of the diminishing of the public domain. If copyright terms were restored to their length prior to Mickey Mouse (20 years) we would not have the problem with cultural works rotting away.

You're right that the founding fathers recognized the importance of copyright but they also recognized the value of balance. They recognized if copyrights were too strong, it would do more harm than good to consumers, society, and even content creators themselves. This is the reason why fair use is designed to trump Copyright and why the public domain is the ultimate destination for the arts and sciences.

Copyright is not designed to be an absolute lock-down of content. It's sole purpose is to give us creators (and scientists) the ability to control reproduction of the work for a short period of time to earn reasonable compensation of our efforts. After that the work is released to the public domain for the betterment of society and the arts.

Anonymous said...

This sounds great and I will totally give the benefit of the doubt to them, but I don't fully trust associations who are bedfellows with the RIAA because they [RIAA} are a bunch of greedy irrational snakes.

Steven Pam said...

John, your argument that copyright is morally equivalent to slavery or women's rights because of it's position in the US constitution is interesting but does not hold up to scrutiny.

The philosophical arguments against slavery and for equal rights for women are quite straightforward.

Copyright, however, is a more complex construct and not a clear human right.

It so happens that like you (and presumably the vast majority of the readers of this blog), I earn my living by creating intellectual property.

On this basis I consider it important to understand not just the finer points of current law or possible future directions for it, but also the relatively flimsy historical and social basis of copyright.

Anonymous said...

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