4th nov, 2010

Farewell copyright?

Today I attended the annual symposium on copyright held by UBVA and the law faculty of the University of Copenhagen. The subject was whether it was time to get rid of that pesky copyright in the face of a changed world. 16 excellent speakers and a really good moderator made the experience a very interesting one. If you ever get the chance of attending a lecture by Prof. Morten Rosenmeier I urge you to jump at the chance – mixing humor and hard law is a rare talent.
Sitting here with a cup of coffee and a donut it is time to take stock and sum up the day.
The first bunch of speakers spoke about the roots of the copyright, why does it exist? The 4 speakers all agreed that there was something worth protecting, which is no surprise given that they are copyright-gurus.
The next group of speakers dived into the subject of what challenges the copyright is facing which is also known stuff. The interesting part was that some divergence was showing now since a young person (he was just out of university!) took the stage and made the copyright threat an age questions – youth vs. their parents. I don’t think that illegal copying, p2p and so on is exclusive to “young” people – I think it´s about convenience, as the young guy pointed out.
The last part was dedicated to “what do we do?”. There were presentations about collective collecting companies, DRM and information campaigns. I was looking forward to the presentation of information campaigns since I have worked with the Danish Tax authority (SKAT) in this area. It was a surprise to me that the conclusion was that information and scare campaigns should not be pursued. The argument was based on a few American experiences, and was not a convincing base for the conclusion. Working with SKAT I was thrilled to see that when using anthropologists to study target groups it was actually possible to have an effect on the group’s morale. The same approach will also be effective on copyright morale but is hampered by the fact that there is no central agency but rather distributed private right owners or organizations.
During the sessions I came up with an idea on how to attack the subject. The problem is that problems, solutions and means differ widely and therefore are very hard to keep separate in a discussion. Attack the problem like an iceberg. Above the water are the challenges – in this case fx illegal file sharing and ignorance of the law. Below the waterline are barriers to solving the challenges. Some barriers are controllable (for the right owners or lawmakers)  fx how the law is written or means of enforcement. Some barriers are only possible to control indirectly fx morale or knowledge of groups of people or how you sell your products. This will indirectly influence how people consume your goods and thereby the challenges. Some barriers are out of your control fx technology development and often also enforcement since some copyright breaches are virtually undetectable. This approach allows you to attack the tip of the iceberg in a differentiated way. There is no one cure for the illnesses that plague the copyright area.


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