[A2k] Future of Copyright
rekrutacja at gazeta.pl
Sat Jan 10 16:43:57 PST 2015
I want to share with you a foresight report on the future of copyright
we finally published after a two years of work. Below is my
introduction, but there is much, much more here:
I hope you will like it. I will be more than happy to get your feedback.
The above report of the meetings of experts does not start with a
methodological introduction, but a fairy tale written by Aymeric Mansoux
to the literary contest “Future of Copyright” (2012), organized by the
Modern Poland Foundation. Using a matrix of Vladimir Propp’s classic
work on the structure of fairy tales, Mansoux is looking for answers to
the question of the author, and participation in culture. Therefore, he
leads his female character through the twists and turns of copyright and
communications technologies, where she collides with symbolic
protagonists and is looking constantly for ways out from the situation
with no way out.
In the abundand with meanings fairy tale by Mansoux one thing is
striking: the total lack of belief that the response to the crisis
caused by a collision of intellectual monopolies with the practice of
communication through electronic media can be a “free culture” project
based on voluntary licenses and the resulting business models. Ten years
ago the success of free software, which has created real and existing
alternatives to proprietary software, gave hope that a similar effect
can be achieved in other areas of the circulation of information. We
believed that, by using and promoting licensing mechanisms, we can “hack
the system” and create an alternative to the system within the system.
Today, we know well that this is not true. It is true that in some areas
free licenses are an effective tool for the recovery of subjectivity by
authors and users of informaton (and a good example here is probably the
movement of free educational resources), but in a broader cultural
practice this tactics is simply ineffective.
Culture is always built on existing narratives. You can not participate
in the processes of social communication in isolation from pre-existing
myths, memes, songs; you need to use them in constructing your own
messages. Culture is not a tool that - like software - we use to achieve
pragmatic goals. Culture is our identity.
Therefore the only solution Mansoux sees is the total abolition of the
system of exclusive rights. Does this literary diagnosis go too far?
Probably so. But not without a reason the recently announced draft of
the European Commission’s work on copyright is entitled “In the pursuit
of new consensus ...”. The copyright law is currently the most discussed
element of the European and global legal order. From the protests
against ACTA (the most mass demonstrations in Poland since 1989) to this
year’s public consultation of copyright by the European Commission, in
which a record of 9.5 thousand citizens and companies participated
sending in over 11 thousand comments, the copyright law awakens emotions.
But although the reform of the system now seems inevitable, the
direction of change is still uncertain. Copyright law is a lens focusing
a lot of different and complex problems - from issues related to
fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of communication
and right to privacy, through constitutional models of political life,
to tectonic changes in the markets caused by technological changes. The
status of this legislation determines not only the work of many business
sectors, but also the basic issues related to communication of hundreds
of millions of people, a lot of citizens treating copyright law as a way
of earning a living, level of education, or the operation of high
culture. Therefore, sets of political values are strictly associated
with the copyright regulations.
Presenting to you the results of workshops devoted to reflection on the
future of communication by the media and cultures in the era of the
information society, we need to point out the difficulties associated
with the speculative and somewhat abstract nature of the work done by
us. We have adopted the form of work inspired by the methodology of
foresight. Exploratory workshops, to which we invited experts from many
different fields, were meant to indicate possible directions of change
in Europe in the perspective of 2040.
It soon turned out that the key to outline the future of copyright and
operating models of culture are two axes: position of intermediaries in
the process of social communication and direction of public policies in
the field of communication. The construction method, and the scope and
stringency of intellectual monopolies are mainly due to the latter, but
legal solutions are derived from the game of many different actors, the
authorities being only one of them. For example, international treaties
taking precedence over the local legal system are even in democratic
countries proceeded beyond any social control.
Basing scenarios for the future on these two axes is also reflected in
our diagnosis that the two most important trends of development of
communication by the media are the development of monopolies towards
their mediation in communication (including the circulation of culture)
and the continous increase of areas seized by intellectual monopolies.
These trends can be metaphorically called “Facebook iceberg” and “Amazon
iceberg”. The first is the model of a centralized communications system
which monetizes privacy, the second is a model of centralized
distribution system which monetizes monopoly on access to content. Of
course, in business practice we observe various hybrid solutions, an
important role being also played by suppliers of equipment and financial
services, but for analytical purposes this model is roomy enough to be
able to serve the description of reality. It is important that both
models assume the intermediaries control over communications processes.
An unattended sphere from the point of view of business is a loss, and
its existence means narrowing of the field on which the circulation of
information is commercialized. However, similarly as the existence of
public space in cities or public services in the country, the existence
of the uncontrolled communicational space is crucial from the point of
view of the public interest. Democracy and standing behind it civic
ideals of subjectivity can not exist in an environment where freedom of
speech and freedom of communication become empty platitudes due to the
lack of Agora not under control. The more Amazon iceberg is coming to
Facebook iceberg, the less space remains for the boat of freedom to glide.
Only two decades ago, it seemed that the societies braided by
communications network would defend themselves. Slogans such as
“Information wants to be free” by Stewart Brand and “Network defines
censorship as damage and celebrates it around” by John Gillmore were
extremely successful in 1990, and the myth of the Web as the space of
unfettered freedom is sometimes taken as fact, what with the aftermath
of calls for different “Twitter revolutions.” In practice, of course,
freedom of speech is primarily due to standards of public life, and the
Internet media are prone to control and manipulation to the same extent
as traditional mass media. The emancipatory potential of technology has
been definitely overpriced, and this means that the freedom of
communication has to be arrived at by political means. Therefore, the
communications regulations (including copyright) are so crucial to the
Sadly, we have to assume that none of the scenarios for the future,
which are the result of the work of the expert group, presents itself as
a utopia fulfilled and the Promised Land. Regardless of which direction
we will develop our civilization, dilemmas, problems and difficult
compromises are waiting for us. According to the well-known thesis
democracy is a method of avoiding the worst solutions, rather than
choosing the best. We hope that our report will help identify the
directions of change that lead to disaster. To avoid them.
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