June 10, 2010

A New, Simple and Reasonable Copyright

Today's copyright laws are not suited for today's information society. We see some culture being locked in, orphan works and a huge part of our cultural heritige in company safes (where people nor can enjoy it or make money on it).

Positions in the discussion on copyright seems to be in gridlock. But, is it really that impossible to set up a legal framework that works reasonably well?

Below, I will outline one model. It is mainly based on Pirate Party policy - but with some personal add-ons. What makes this model attractive is not just that it would solve 90 per cent of the problems we see with today's copyright. Even more exiting is that it works well with people all over the political field; from right to left; from individualists to collectivists. And even better: It is simple and understandable...

i) If someone wants copyright protection, he or she will have to apply for it. (If people need to apply for welfare cheques, it is quite reasonable that people who wants society to protect their business and their products also will have to do so.)

ii) Works that are not acitively protected will become "public domain" - and could freely be e.g. shared, copied and sampled by others. It should, however, not be allowed to "kidnap" other peoples works in the public domain by copyright protecting them.

iii) The copyright protection time is five years, from the day the creator of a work has applied for it. (In today's world, normally the commercial lifespan is not longer than that.)

iv) The copyright protection time can be prolonged with five years at a time, for those who would like to do so. (But I´m pretty shure most works will become public domain after five years.) Prolonging the protection time must be done actively, with a new application.

v) The copyright protection for a work is transferable from the artist / author. It can be sold, inherited or given away to others. This way, it is possible for the artist to focus on creating - and leaving marketing and day to day business to experts. (One could also consider the possibility that the artist can lease the right to commercial use of his/her protected work to others.)

vi) With this system applied on an EU-level we would avoid the problems with 27 different licenses in the otherways single market. A data base could provide updated information on on the status of all works that once have been registered. (So that you e.g. can see if a piece of music is free to use or still under copyright protection.)

This is not a perfect model. But it might solve most problems. It is more reasonable than today's system. And I think most people would understand and accept it.

Starting at this point, it would also be simpler to handle the issue of file sharing of copyright protected works. (Witch I, by the way, think should be permitted if it is done without commercial intent. But that is an other discussion, that will go on regardless. And with higher stakes with today's system.) The point is that lots and lots of works in the public domain would be a goldmine for people who wants to enjoy free culture. The public domain would expand fast, as most copyright holders would probably allow their work to be public domain after five or ten years, when the commercial lifespan is over.

The model above would also stimulate new business models - even those that do not assume copyright protection at all. (See Chris Anderssons book Free, for plenty of examples and ideas.)

[This blog post in Swedish]


Fredrik said...

I think it would be an easier sell (and quite reasonable) if you gave the first five years for free (without any registration requirement). This way you didn't completely throw out how copyright works in pretty much all countries today, but rather, reduced today's copyright to 5 years and then tagged on your extensions after that. Your proposal is also very similar to what Larry Lessig has been proposing through the years.

Henrik Alexandersson said...

A problem if you don´t register from the beginning is that after the initial (5 year?) copyright protection period - you can´t tell what works are free or not.

And there is lots of works that the artists don´t want to copyright protect at all. This, of course, can be avoided by using creative commons. But shouldn´t it be the people who *want* protection that should be doing paperwork..?