I recently reviewed Cory Doctorow’s book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. Copyright is a passion of mine and I think this is a good opportunity to summarize my position on the matter.
For me, the single most important aspect of copyright is the public domain.
Most of the major copyright reforms over the past half century have made it a priority to prevent creative works from entering the public domain for as long as possible. On the other hand, there are many creative workers and educators of all stripes who depend on public domain materials to do their jobs—people who can’t afford to pay for usage rights to copyrighted stuff. This is one of the central conflicts of our copyright system.
When I was first taught about copyright, I was told that there were two equally important purposes that it was designed to serve:
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow is, as one would expect, an incisive and lively exploration of the issues surrounding copyright and enforcement in the Internet Age.
Dr. Doctorow is established as an outspoken critic of the various methods that media corporations use to try and enforce their interpretation of copyright laws on the Internet: digital locks, DRM efforts, automated “Notice and Takedown” practices, etc. He takes on each of these methods and explains clearly what they’re intended to accomplish, why they fail, and the damage they do to creative workers and Internet users in general.
US Circuit Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Google in their long drawn out suit with the Author’s Guild over copyright and the Google Books project. Judge Chin cited Fair Use as the primary reason for his ruling. He also emphasized the difference between commercial and non-commercial use of works.
It’s a good article. It’s important to acknowledge that, despite the challenges we currently face regarding copyright, our system in the United States is far less restrictive than authors’ rights systems in many other countries.
By the same token, though, this article highlights quite well the problems that I have with many of the changes made to U.S. copyright law over the past decades. Namely:
All the major evolutions of copyright law in this country over the past decades have been attempts by commercial interests to change it into a restrictive authors’ rights system.
If these changes continue, then copyright law won’t make sense anymore.
Given my concerns over the current state of copyright law, it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’m a fan of Creative Commons licensing. The main issue I – and many others – encounter with CC, though, is proper attribution. Attribution of CC material can get rather confusing.