As Charles Kenny shouts in the headline of his latest entry to ForeignPolicy.com, U.S. cartoons are holding the developing world hostage via copyright reforms that cripple creation while strengthening copyright holders’ dominance. That is to say, no one in the world (that expects to stay in good relations with the U.S.) can build upon the creations of U.S. companies until those creations fall into the public domain and with the recent barrage of extensions to the length of copyright protection, that’ll be awhile.
As anyone worried about finding a DMCA notice on their virtual doorstep knows, copyright is complicated, and it’s only getting worse as large corporations continue to push copyright laws down a road of vaults and locks on all things they see as being profitable. But if copyright as it stands is complicated, reform may be even more complicated. As typically happens anywhere a governing body forms, the good intentions of an original system slowly get twisted, bound, reinterpreted, edited, and otherwise convoluted so that no sense of the original intentions can be derived. It’s like a legal mash-up that if subjected to copyright law itself would likely fall under fair use since the derivative is so transformative…but it’s not often healthy for society, and its definitely not where the framers intended it to go.
For instance, New Zealand just passed a bill that could terminate internet accounts if their respective holders can’t prove that they didn’t file-share copyrighted materials. It’s a bold ‘guilty until proven innocent’ move that puts large corporations on top of the file-sharing game while simultaneously threatening internet users’ lifestyles by putting their internet phone, mail, and business functions on the line. It’s reasonable to ask, how would someone defend against an accusation of file-sharing in New Zealand? Can you image having your internet disconnected leaving you without email, Skype, search engines for an unknown quantity of time for something that perhaps you simply couldn’t defend against? Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of this one but it nevertheless begs the question, were copyright holders ever intended to have the right to cut infringer’s connection to the world off for an offense? That’s an incredible power! The next think we’ll know, anyone found to be plagiarizing will be banned from reading books. That’ll improve society.
While copyright law may have initiated as an incentive plan for all creators, more and more stringent and restrictive copyright laws now show that copyright today only stands to ensuring compensation for copyright holders–which often [sadly] isn’t even the creator. This message strongly opposes that which copyright classes around the nation enforce–that copyright law is not intended to ensure one ‘makes money’ off of creations but rather incentivize the production of new works through ensured limited control over the use of those works. Well given all the copyright reforms in the works, good luck convincing students of that in the future!
It seems that law makers around the world have forgotten that culture is collaborative and therefore creation is always going to build upon prior creations. Hence, incentivizing creators by giving them rights to control how their work is used for a limited amount of time, gives the creators an upper hand on furthering their own creations–which at one point was a great source of pride and yes, sometimes revenue but not necessarily the latter. But, of course, this was always meant to be a temporary right to control because the longer items are kept out of the public domain the fewer building blocks other creators have to build upon and that inherently slows the advancement of creations. Law makers seem to have forgotten that part. Instead of coming back to the goal of optimizing the creative environment, more and more governments are simply creating civil deviants out of our culture’s creators by punishing them for being influenced by those who come before them.
And now not only will they be civil deviants but they may be angry, disconnected deviants in New Zealand should they be found to say, file-share a mash-up of their favorite recordings.
Good move out there, governments! Allow our prisoners access to the internet but not file-sharers; that’s just logical! These are the criminals that are ruining our society [file-sharers]! Cut off their access to the world until they come up with a spontaneous stroke of genius that creates their own copyrighted creation over which they may hover.
Sounds like we’re on the right track. [Check, please!]