October 2021

Will publishers try to shut down the free General Index of 107 million scientific journal articles?

One of the exciting possibilities opened up by the digital world is that access to all human knowledge could be made freely available to everyone with an Internet connection. Sadly, most publishers prefer boosting their profits to helping humanity, and have done everything they can to make sure that this possibility is never realised. Despite …

Billions of dollars pour into music copyright “assets”: how much will the creators ever see?

A few weeks ago, this blog reported on the spectacular 45 billion euro valuation of Universal Music Group (UMG) when it went public on Amsterdam’s Euronext exchange. It seems that was just a foretaste of a huge inflow of money to the music industry – and of a fundamental shift in the way music copyrights …

A good copyright ruling from a wise judge means you still don’t need to care what a CDN is or does

Many people are unaware of what a “Content Delivery Network” (CDN) is, or does, even though they probably make use of one hundreds of times a day. And that’s fine: a CDN is just part of the Internet’s plumbing. Typically, it is a global network of computers that “cache” – store copies of – digital …

An artist’s messy divorce shows why copyright shouldn’t be regarded as a kind of property

One of the key themes of Walled Culture is the tension between the 18th-century idea of copyright, and the 21st-century digital world where we spend an increasing proportion of our waking hours. That’s probably the most obvious issue, but there’s another aspect of copyright that is becoming problematic in modern life: the idea that it …

Technological progress + outdated copyright laws = huge swathes of our cinematic culture lost forever

Physical books can be bought, shared, and accessed in libraries quite easily. Films in a physical form, on the other hand, are hard to acquire, share or view in archives. Writing in the Guardian, the non-fiction filmmaker Charlie Shackleton says that 90% of archive collections consist of film prints that will never be seen. Moreover, …

Copyright law discriminating against the blind finally struck down by court in South Africa

Most people would agree that those who are blind or visually impaired deserve all the help they can get. For example, the conversion of printed materials to accessible formats like Braille, large print, or Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY) formats, ought to be easy. Who could possibly object? For years, many publishers did; and the …

Why copyright’s absurdly long term is no big friendly giant to creators and their public

As this blog noted last week, nowadays copyright in a work can easily last more than a century. A recent piece of news shows what that can mean in practice, and why it is so bad for creators and their public. It concerns the well-known children’s author Roald Dahl, who died in 1990. Copyright in …

Longer copyright protection means fewer books are available, and they cost more

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the standard copyright term of life plus 70 years makes no sense: a promise that they’ll be paid after their death is unlike to stimulate extra creativity from artists. Conscious of how weak this argument is as a justification for extremely long copyright, supporters have come up …

Widespread copyright anxiety, leading to copyright chill, means something is deeply wrong

Thirty years ago, copyright law was boring. It was the province of specialised lawyers, and had very little direct impact on ordinary people’s lives. The Internet changed all that. Now, everyone online is affected by copyright, which comes into play whenever people create something in a fixed form, like a post, or when they share …

 

September 2021

ResearchGate: academic publishers forbid scientists from sharing their own papers, because “copyright”

ResearchGate is a social network for scientists, whose ideas seem pretty closely aligned with those of this blog: Our mission is to connect the world of science and make research open to all. The 20 million researchers in our community come from diverse sectors in over 190 countries, and use ResearchGate to connect, collaborate, and …

Until the recording industry’s monopoly power is broken, musicians may need to go independent

We’ve just written about the terrible deal that most musicians get from the increasingly-popular streaming of their music. A post on Boing Boing explores another aspect of the same problem: the fact that musicians aren’t generally paid according to how many people listen to their music on streaming, but according to their share of the …

We don’t have walled culture because of piracy, but because of corporate profiteering

Last week, Universal Music Group (UMG) went public on Amsterdam’s Euronext exchange, and ended up with a valuation of 45 billion euros (over $50 billion). An article on Quartz explained: The strong public debut signaled a win for the recorded music industry, which struggled to maintain revenues and profitability in the early 2000s as physical …

Yet another move to funnel money to big copyright companies, not struggling creators

When modern copyright came into existence in 1710, it gave a monopoly to authors for just 14 years, with the option to extend it for another 14. Today, in most parts of the world, copyright term is the life of the creator, plus 70 years. That’s typically over a hundred years. The main rationale for …

Unleashing the power of online sharing for all: the birth and rise of Creative Commons

Effortless copying lies at the heart of the Internet. As digital data is passed from location to location, copies of it are made at the intersection of the networks that form the Internet (inter-net). Copyright, on the other hand, is designed to control every copy of a creative work, including digital ones. That inherent contradiction …

Breaking down the walls: UK government supporting open science and open research

It’s not just culture that suffers because of walls built by copyright: science, too, has a terrible problem in this regard. In some ways, that’s even worse, since copyright often prevents the free, frictionless flow of information in the form of academic papers, reports, books etc. that will lead to more research and more discoveries. …

Welcome to Walled Culture

The modern world is digital. We meet people online, we buy things online, we deal with the government online. But the digital sphere is not just the latest version of the traditional, analogue world. It is fundamentally different. Once something is digital, it can be copied perfectly and infinitely. That allows digital objects to be …