WIPO is concerned at the lack of respect for copyright. At the same time, they dismiss the views of the Pirate Party as “extremist”. I think they do not realize that the copyright monopoly will fall in its entirety if it is not cut back radically, and soon.
There is an obvious dissonance between some parts of society on the topic of the copyright monopoly. This dissonance appears to mainly boil down to the fact that some people regard copyright as a religious axiom that cannot be questioned.
It is obvious that technological progress has come at clashes with the copyright monopoly.
My observation is that lawyers and middlemen react to this by saying that since the law (on the copyright monopoly) is not in sync with technological progress, the technology is broken and must be fixed with the help of the law.
My observation is also that everybody else — in particular creators, authors, and people under 35 — react to this by saying that since the law is not in sync in technological progress, the law is broken and must be fixed with the help of technology.
I will provide two examples of delusions from lawyers and publishers that only exist in their world and nobody else’s:
- The distinction between “downloading” and “streaming”, which is a distinction that only exists in the books of law and not in reality.
- Country borders.
Let’s return to WIPO and their concerns (via TechDirt). WIPO is concerned over the alarming rate of non-respect of the copyright monopoly, quotes the Pirate Party’s principles of reducing the monopoly to five years from publication on commercial grounds and no monopoly at all for noncommercial use, and claims it’s an extremist position.
Let me make one thing quite clear: the Pirate Party’s position is a compromise that is the copyright monopoly’s only chance to survive at all. The respect for this monopoly is so low, that unless reduced radically, it will be removed altogether.
Now, some people are usually quick to compare to other laws, like speed limits. I think that’s a useful comparison that forces us to distinguish between respect for a law and support for a law. Everybody’s frequently breaking both, but most people are in support of speed limits. However, support for the copyright monopoly is nonexistent among young citizens (politicians: read “voters”). Respect and support for a law are usually correlated to a strong degree.
This also leads me to a poll of respect for laws in Sweden a few years ago. It was quite noteworthy that respect for the copyright monopoly laws were lower, much lower, than respect for speed limits. Now, this statement is not very useful unless also given a cultural understanding of the respect for speed limits. In the United States, for instance, the respect for speed limits is stratospheric compared to what it’s like in Sweden.
When I had a Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle, I frequently took and enjoyed rides on the highway exceeding 300 km/h. There was nothing abnormal or unusual about that for a motorcycle rider. When fined — once — for speeding, I was disappointed that the fine only stated 183 km/h (but then again, it was an average over a long stretch of road).
This give you an image of the level of the respect for the copyright monopoly, given that it is much, much lower than the respect for speed limits. Unless substatially reduced to “harmless” levels, it will be killed in its entirety.
I do not agree with the Pirate Party’s stance that the commercial monopoly should remain at five years. I couldn’t say this while leading the party, obviously, but as a private opinionwriter I can say with confidence that I believe that no part of the copyright monopoly meets the minimum quality bar for legislation: necessary, effective and proportional.
All four parts of the copyright monopoly are either unnecessary or harmful, in my view.
That doesn’t mean I disagree with all of its intended social mechanisms. I agree that people should have a right to try to make money off of what they create — but that’s just normal contract law. Freelancing writers and photographers will not have a problem if copyright disappears overnight. I agree that creators should justly be associated with their work — but the social sanctions for violating this and plagiarizing are much, much higher than the legal sanctions. If you plagiarize in the academic world, for instance, you are kicked off your job and not welcome back to your whole profession. That makes a €20-to-€600 fine look like a slap on the wrist, and it is therefore superfluous.
The Pirate Party’s stance is a reasonable and pragmatic compromise that solves 99% of the problems by going 95% of the way there, and I see it as a good start that I have chosen to work for and support.
But if the copyright monopoly isn’t reformed to something reduced along those lines, and soon, the next generation of politicians will abolish the copyright monopoly altogether as an irritating remnant from the time of guilds before free entrepreneurship and free market, which it also is.
This will happen sooner rather than later, maybe in as little as ten years given the worldwide irritation over the monopoly, and I’m rather sure the relevant middlemen and lawyers would prefer a five-year commercial monopoly to none at all.