Despite the Internet revolutionizing the world of communication for the past three decades, the legislation of Authors’ rights – which was already quite obsolete several decades ago – hasn’t evolved significantly in this time frame, leading to a total disconnection between Copyright laws and the reality of intellectual property and information sharing. This is why in 2012, Rick Falkvinge and Christian Engström, two members of the Swedish Pirate Party (including its founder) published The Case for Copyright Reform, where they give their view on how the Copyright laws should be reformed.
Generally speaking, the legislation depicted in this book is radically different from what we are used to, granting less rights to creators, and for less time, in an attempt to stimulate the sharing of culture and knowledge between individuals. The proposition is formed of six points, that we are going to quickly review.
The first point is probably the only thing that wouldn’t change: moral rights. As long as we recognize property of physical goods, it makes sense to also recognize intellectual property. Almost everyone agree on this, and I’m no exception.
This second point is probably the most sensitive one, and I myself am not completely sure whether I really agree with the idea or not. For content that is used both by businesses and by individuals, I largely tend to agree with the proposition. Books (and knowledge in general) are a good example: I think that it’s extremely important to make knowledge available to anybody regardless of their wealth, but companies using knowledge to make money should give back some of their profit to where this knowledge originates from (profit that they wouldn’t make otherwise). (Non-free) Software is another example. However, this model seems to start showing some of its limits when considering content made for entertainment. In some cases, like the music industry, the change in business model is possible (artists make the most money off live shows, not disk sales or streaming); but in some other it looks much more difficult. Take, for example, the video-game industry. While game developers have been extremely creative in developing various business models, I fail to see how they can manage to make money without resorting to a Pay-to-win approach or anything similar, as most games aren't used for profit.
Despite the potential pitfalls of this model, I still think that it is a viable option and that its drawbacks will be largely compensated by its benefits.
As a quick note, it also brings more questions about our general vision on society. As described above, making non-commercial use of intellectual property free, would encourage the sharing of knowledge while potentially reducing the profit companies make on entertainment material. Quite paradoxically, this might lead to better entertainment, where the focus isn’t anymore on quantity but on quality, as creators would need to convince customers to voluntarily finance their projects.
“Mass society, on the contrary, wants not culture but entertainment” – Hannah Arendt, 1960
We will all agree that the current duration of the creator’s life plus 70 years doesn’t make sense and that it should be reduced. What is the best duration of commercial monopoly, then? This can be the subject of a nearly infinite debate. I personally think that 20 years isn’t enough, as the owner of intellectual property should be able to perceive revenue for his creations even after retirement. For this reason, my first proposal would be the lifetime of the creator. That being said, in some (extreme) cases, we probably don’t want the copyright to be affected by whether the creator is alive or not. So, alternatively, a period of 30, or even 40 years of commercial monopoly seems more reasonable to me.
Besides, the relatively long period of Copyright validity wouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is today, given the free sharing of materials for non-commercial purposes discussed previously.
I don’t have particular remarks to make on this proposition. I agree on the fact that unregistered content should have a much shorter Copyright validity, for the reasons mentioned in the book, and 5 years looks like a sensible period to me.
Currently, the legislation about “quotation rights” for non-textual material is clearly lacking, and creating a legal framework for this type of content is necessary. The current legislation for text can indeed be taken as a good base, but the making of new laws is also an opportunity to adapt and improve the old ones if necessary. Although I don’t have specific recommendations on this topic, it might be worth thinking about it.
Again, I don’t have much to say on this. It would be a good thing, as DRM can often be circumvented in a way or another, they unnecessarily use resources, and if the use of copyrighted content is free for individuals, it looses a big part of its interest anyway.
These ideas have been published a decade ago, and have been discussed long before that. Yet, no improvement has been seen in Copyright laws and piracy is still the norm. Although the suggestions made in this book can be subject to small objections, I generally agree with them and would support them without any hesitation. The world’s authors’ rights legislation is incredibly outdated and updating it isn’t a suitable option anymore: it needs to be largely rewritten to suit today’s and tomorrow’s technological context.
Rick Falkvinge, Christian Engström, The Case for Copyright Reform