Friday, December 1, 2023

Happy Birthday Copyright: 1710-2010

Well, at least in the UK. According to the British Council’s Counterpoint:

The world’s first copyright law was passed by the English Parliament on 10 April 1710 as ‘An Act for the Encouragement of Learning’. Its 300th anniversary provides a unique opportunity to review copyright’s purposes and principles.  If today we were starting from scratch, but with the same aim of encouraging learning‚ what kind of copyright would we want?

To answer this question, the British Council is organising a series of meetings in London, Shanghai and elsewhere. Our starting point is the question, What is the purpose of copyright? And, once that is agreed, even tentatively, how could we achieve it? Is the list of ‘qualifying works’ the right one? Should copyright arise automatically or should rights be registered? Is ‘copyright’ the appropriate name? How do we balance access and ownership? What are the optimal lengths of copyright terms? What is the role of moral rights, and of personal data and privacy? What do we mean by ‘fair’ in the phrases ‘fair dealing’ and ‘fair use’ and how do we uphold this fairness in practice? Is fairness in a physical world different from fairness in the digital space? How do we define unlawful copying and how do we promote a fair regime of sanctions and penalties?

Their poll seems to indicate (at the time of this posting), that 97% of respondents do not think the UK Digital Economy Bill strikes the right balance between fostering creativity and protecting rights. Perhaps one “free culture” person sat there for 24-hours and kept clicking “no”? Check out Counterpoint’s Online Copyright Project.


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