Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Copy me, mash me up

Reading the customarily histrionic ramblings on boingboing about copyright, The lady doth protest too much springs to mind. As always, the game needs to balance the needs of the various players. Large media companies want as long and as restrictive a copyright law as possible. Consumers want the legitimate freedom to copy something, once purchased, between various devices they own, to time shift their consumption and so on. The greedy want everything for free. Artists whose practice is based on bricolage want to be able to alter other people's work and incorporate it into their own freely - similarly for satirists. And all parties have effective lobbyists.

The right solution will be difficult. Clearly there should be some use it or lose it clause, so that copyright does not prohibit legitimate use where a copyright holder cannot be identified (this holds for the vast majority of works more than a few years old). Equally, creators need some measure of legal certainty, but the protestations of older 'artists' like Cliff Richard that they can no longer live off the royalties on their earlier works do not sway many people. And finely drawn distinctions between the right to listen to a purchased CD on one device but not an MP3 rip of that CD on another will only serve to irritate consumers. Perhaps a disinterested systems theorist could help?

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