Saturday, August 16, 2008

End of copyright

William Patry - who has been involved in copyright for 26 years, most recently with Google - has announced he's no longer going to blog.

One reason he gives is the way his personal views keep being protrayed as if he's speaking on Google's behalf; but he's equally annoyed by the current state of copyright law:

I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries. I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others. But in my view, and that of my cherished brother Sir Hugh Laddie, we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

For anyone who cares about fair use and creativity, the loss of sensible voices in the centre is upsetting; for the corporations who wish to control copyright, it's a positive boon.