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The Copyright Myths

As part of Monday's Public Policy Forum's symposium on copyright, I was given the opportunity to deliver a short talk on copyright.  I titled the talk "The Copyright Myths," a nod to the rhetoric around the copyright reform issue in Canada (for those who are wondering – the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said little controversial at the symposium, leaving the more energetic support of the DMCA to the luncheon speaker from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and keynote speaker Perrin Beatty. All panels featured speakers from both sides of the copyright/IP issue and the outcome of the breakouts emphasized fair dealing and anti-counterfeiting measures). 

I've tried syncing the presentation and the MP3 I recorded of my talk which is posted below.  An MP3 version only of the talk can be accessed here.  For those looking for the short version, my five myths are:

  1. The Importance of Copyright – copyright is important, but investment decisions, creativity and new business models are products of much more than just an IP framework as venture capital, tax structures, talent, competitive communications, and government support are all part of the decision making process.
  2. Consultations and Reforms – while some argue that Canada has engaged in lengthy consultations with little action, I argue that the opposite is true
  3. Canada in the World – lobby groups and the U.S. have been vocal in criticizing Canadian copyright law, yet a closer look reveals that Canadian law stands up impressively by world (and U.S.) standards
  4. Copyright in the World – the U.S. would have you believe that all countries must mirror the DMCA, however, the truth is that there is great flexibility in how any country can move forward with digital copyright reform
  5. Copyright Consensus – most seem to believe that copyright is too divisive to achieve consensus, but I argue that there is already a broad consensus on an approach that rejects the DMCA and emphasizes balance

21 Comments

  1. copyright myths
    There’s another myth: Never shift the burden to the artists.

    This myth is based on content providers seeking to perpetuate their role as sole enforcers of copyright issues.

    With technology, it becomes a trivial matter for artists to drive their own bus. By utilizing an “authoright” seal of approval, first described by Anatoly Volynets, the artist can control how their works are treated online and offline.

    When a musician, for example, creates an original song, she can attach her “authoright” seal of approval to it, and sell the work on her site. She can also sell her seal of approval as an exclusive contract, or nonexclusive contract, and name the terms. Anyone who arranges satisfactory terms with her, can use the “authoright” seal of approval, and buyers will know they are paying for a song that will pay the artist their fair share. If a buyer doesn’t see the “authoright” seal of approval, they know they’re buying a copy that is a rip-off, i.e., not approved.

    Enforcement is the responsibility of the artist. Is it that simple? Probably. As the artist becomes known, popular, the price of the “authoright” seal of approval increases.

    Wonder why the content providers don’t want such a simple, elegant way to handle the Internet business models that build upon this foundation?

  2. Crosbie Fitch says:

    Naming
    Tom, I think that idea has potential and is worth exploring. However, I’d find some other name like ‘FairCopy’. Don’t riff on the name ‘copyright’, because copyright is an unethical privilege, not a right. Use words like genuine, approved, authentic, bona fide, honourable, etc. You should be very careful that something is a right before you use it as a suffix.

  3. Crosbie Fitch says:

    NB There is no right to attribution, nor should there be. There is however a right to truth, thus accuracy in attribution, and consequently attribution may be required where its omission misattributes a work by implication, e.g. due to context.

  4. The only consensus is on the part of those wanting to use copyright material. Those who created and own it do not agree with what is called balance but in fact involves taking their work.

  5. Did you notice if Perrin Beatty was smiling and clapping at the end of your presentaion? ;)

    :p

  6. Darryl Moore says:

    Consensus amonst reasonable parties
    Post 2008-04-30 07:59:05, John D is that you?

    The only ones who do not agree that the most contentious parts of the DMCA should be left out of Canadian law, are large US media corporations and a few control obsessed creators. The corporations should be ignored, as what they are asking for will only benefit them to the great detriment of society as a whole. The control obsessed creators should be reminded that if they want to maintain complete control of exactly how and when their creativity is experienced and interpreted by others they should simply keep it to themselves and NOT publish it. Something about having a cake and eating it too.

  7. Artists have always been allowed to “take” from others’ work.

    In the old days, they called it allusion, and it was an integral part of poetry and music and literature and visual arts. Or it was called incidental inclusion. Or fair use. Or fair dealing. Or comment and criticism. Or insubstantial copying.

    Today, it’s been corrupted into infringement under copyright law run amok.

  8. Thx for the slides and audio, and Happy
    A big thanks for providing us with the audio and those slides!

    If it\’s possible let us, please, have more of that kind. It\’s a very good complement to text only articles.

    And, yes, it was a most interesting concentrated speech :-)

    Happy Walpurgis Night from Sweden!
    /The Swede

  9. Re: Consultations
    One point that I think you should make with regard to the consultation process is that the most recent consultation took place PRIOR to the introduction of the iPod.
    September 2001 was the deadline for submissions and Apple launched the iPod in October.
    If there ever was a game-changing event in the history of copyright and IP rights, it is the introduction of the iPod.
    I hope that any chance you get to mention this little fact to MP’s and other stakeholders, you will do so.

  10. Ryan Shepherd says:

    Well Done!
    Well done Michael!
    Just wanted to give a big Thank You from all of us concerned consumers out there!
    Please don\’t stop being our voice!

  11. great work
    Michael, thank you for this presentation and your efforts advocating sensible copyright law.

  12. Re to Dave’s post
    Dave,

    I think you give too much credit to the iPod. Yes, it was a bit game-changing in its popularity, but it was by no means the first mp3 player out there. Even for its time, other than its size, it wasn’t even technically the best, but Apple’s hype and design made it popular.

    Many of the portable mp3 player cases revolved around the Diamond RIO, the first mainstream commercially available solid-state mp3 player.

    I’d also like to add that Napster (you know, how people downloaded music and such and then burned to CD or put on their pre-ipod mp3 players), was active from 99 to July 01, so I think the whole digital music thing would have been well represented at these previous meetings.

    CD burners (and before that, tape trading) go years (and decades) before napster.

    So, I’d say the iPod was pretty minimal in all of this.

  13. to Tom Poe
    Tom Poe: Such a system already exists. It’s called licensing and we legally disclaim the license via such statement as: “(c)2008, COPYRIGHT_OWNER – Licensed by LICENSEE_NAME_HERE”

  14. copyright myths
    As one who is \’Living in the USA,\’ I have to say \”You are spot on.\” When issues like copyright reform arise, you\’ve got to follow the money. Invariably some greedy, short-sighted interests are behind it. I hope the world shoves the DMCA, et al right down the US politician\’s and special interests\’ greedy, misguided throats. Keep up the good work and thank you for providing some clear-headed reasoning re this issue.

  15. the issue is power
    Whatever it\’s called, the \”authoright\” or \”faircopy\” notion doesn\’t get you out of the asymmetric power relations between artists and distributors/publishers. Sure, the artist can distribute from their own site, and spend lots of time they don\’t have promoting it. Or they can make a deal with a promoter, distributor, whatever, to put that seal of approval on their site.

    And then you\’re right back to where you are now: nothing stops distributors/publishers from pressuring artists into giving that seal of approval in return for next to nothing. If I were a poor artist and thought I could get better visibility and maybe a higher price for later works, why not?

  16. Greed
    Another word for these distributors/publishers,special interest groups is music pimps. Shameless twits.

  17. Michelle Vietor says:

    The connection between this and 2600
    Why was 2600 listed on the page with the other strictly copyrighted works, when they state in their own publication that they’re ok with article reprints as long as they are credited?

  18. PLease Stop this law mr Giest
    I created have been involved in creating free DVD players. When this law comes to pass i will end up in jail just because i made some software. This law is absurd. You can\’t view a DVD without breaking this law if your using free players for Linux. It goes further then that people will not be able to modify technology (assuming most if not all technology now is digitally locked). We must stop this law. It will turn hundreds of innovators and programmers in this country into criminals and take away even the right to dispose or modify technology. Currently game console manufacturers prosecute people in the US who modify one of their consoles. Even disposing of the product without modification has liability since the consoles are sold at a loss. This law is insanity.

  19. composer/screenwriter
    Okay, I just stumbled into this site… And I don’t get it. Everyone loves to complain about copy protection and royalties… but how exactly are you proposing that artists like myself get paid for our work?

    Are you saying that consumers have some unalienable right to download, distribute and replicate my original intellectual property whether I want them to or not?

    Who says you have a ‘right’ to copy a DVD any more easily than you can copy a car? Writers couldn’t make a living if it weren’t for the residuals from sales of movies and tv series. How exactly are you suggesting we wipe out copyright without impoverishing creative artists? (Which is kinda happening already…)

    Just askin. Obviously I just started reading here, and I assume you’ve got a “plan” that is fair and balanced for everyone involved. But I don’t see a link. And I’m the curious type… Clue me in!!

  20. Tim – Composer/Screenwriter
    Actually, there is a means.

    Visit Techdirt and read up on “Give it away and Pray” and see why that does not work (as you realize by your comment). And in this world, right now you cannot simply create a copy of a car, if you could you could then make that comparison. I wish they would compare apples to apples and not something that cannot be replicated identically with virtually zero cost.

    Seriously, visit techdirt and read and read. It won’t take long. A clue is Nine Inch Nails, and techdirt even debunks the myth that you need to be popular for that model to work. Not true. You will need to build up a fanbase and that you can do!

    For example, once you play clubs/coffee houses and once you start getting noticed, and you will if you work hard at it and really give it your all (this model does not work if you are half-hazard, that’s the nature of the market, if you are not good you do not get rewarded), you will get noticed!

    Now, you get people following you, showing up at your gigs, this means you bring people to your gigs. The best way to do that is by connecting with the fans! That is very important. You have to establish some sort of connection with them. The more connections the better.

    You encourage fans to contribute, meaning they post on youtube, spread the word, share via BitTorrent and p2p, engage in online chats with them, have forums on your website and ACTUALLY reply! Be respectful. Understand that if you want them to pay for something they can get for free, you have to go above what is available for free.

    I play to prepare custom CD’s burned by ME with light-scribe or something, autographed. I also include in the package lyrics, notes on things/pictures, and guitar tabs/sheet music. I can include lessons on playing, I can encourage other guitarists or pianists to create music and do as I am, encourage them to share their thoughts on world issues (just like http://www.matthewgood.org), and then engage with fans!

    Have lotteries tied in where you give them a private performance for the winner and a few friends or a group of fans and their friends. Maybe you’re really cool and you jam with them!

    Never lose that connection and give them something (your time, pictures, stories, tabs, etc…) that cannot be easily replicated and you will have sales and income! Your fanbase will grow.

    Check out techdirt, they have some great advice and stories! That’s how you USE the internet to your advantage and make a living doing what you do! You also have FULL control and all the money goes to you, not to someone trying to control you and the consumer.

    Cheers and best of luck!

  21. … and you pay the bills how?
    “For example, once you play clubs/coffee houses and once you start getting noticed, and you will if you work hard at it and really give it your all (this model does not work if you are half-hazard, that’s the nature of the market, if you are not good you do not get rewarded), you will get noticed!

    Now, you get people following you, showing up at your gigs, this means you bring people to your gigs. The best way to do that is by connecting with the fans! That is very important. You have to establish some sort of connection with them. The more connections the better.

    You encourage fans to contribute, meaning they post on youtube, spread the word, share via BitTorrent and p2p, engage in online chats with them, have forums on your website and ACTUALLY reply! Be respectful. Understand that if you want them to pay for something they can get for free, you have to go above what is available for free.

    I play to prepare custom CD’s burned by ME with light-scribe or something, autographed. I also include in the package lyrics, notes on things/pictures, and guitar tabs/sheet music. I can include lessons on playing, I can encourage other guitarists or pianists to create music and do as I am, encourage them to share their thoughts on world issues (just like http://www.matthewgood.org), and then engage with fans!

    Have lotteries tied in where you give them a private performance for the winner and a few friends or a group of fans and their friends. Maybe you’re really cool and you jam with them!

    Never lose that connection and give them something (your time, pictures, stories, tabs, etc…) that cannot be easily replicated and you will have sales and income! Your fanbase will grow.

    Check out techdirt, they have some great advice and stories! That’s how you USE the internet to your advantage and make a living doing what you do! You also have FULL control and all the money goes to you, not to someone trying to control you and the consumer. ”

    That’s just brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? So you play some gigs, build up a fan base, bet them to get a buzz going about your band. Awesome.

    Then you go to record a CD (independent of course), and the recording time, mastering, production, etc. comes to maybe $20,000, if you want to do at least a half decent job. How do you pay for that? With your dedicated fan base? No, because they, like most other ‘consumers’ think someone else should spend all their time, money and energy providing them with free content, and if they don’t, they’re just being greedy.

    That’s the problem with file ‘sharing’.