What has copyright got to do with the Tiananmen Square massacre?

Hong Kong was supposed to enjoy a special “one country, two systems” approach for 50 years after it was handed back to China by the UK in 1997. It’s clear now that the Chinese authorities have no intention of waiting that long. After the Hong Kong national security law was passed in 2020, Beijing has …

Remembering Aaron Swartz, who died on this day, a victim of the copyright system

On this day in 2013, Aaron Swartz died by his own hand, at the age of 26. His short but full life as a hacker and activist is summed up well on Wikipedia – one of the many projects he was involved with. It is widely believed that Swartz hanged himself because he faced the …

How the financialisation of music could lead to demands for perpetual copyright

Back in October, this blog noted the huge amounts of money pouring into music copyrights, largely driven by the global rise of online streaming. Since then, that trend has continued, most notably with Bruce Springsteen’s sale of his recordings and songwriting catalogue to Sony, for a rumoured $550 million. As we pointed out in the …

It took a 15-year fight to be allowed to use an existing DRM exception: who still thinks copyright is fair?

In his Walled Culture interview, Cory Doctorow explains cogently why Digital Rights Management (DRM) is such a disaster. It’s also pointless: DRM can always be broken, and once there is one unprotected copy out on the Internet, the material with DRM effectively become an inferior, hobbled version. The copyright companies reacted to this fact in …

Public Domain Day is here again: it should be an occasion for condemnation, not celebration

Once copyright’s walls come down, creative material enters the public domain. It is free for all to use, modify and build upon. It is part of the matrix from which future creativity springs. One of the best places to explore it and its importance is the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at …

Why environmental non-governmental organizations – and everyone else – should go green (open access)

Open access (OA) – making academic research freely available to all – seems self-evidently a great idea. It’s good for the public, which gains access to work it has funded, and it’s good for researchers, as knowledge about their research reaches a far wider audience than it would trapped behind a publisher’s paywall. Open access …

US publishers sue to stop a new law requiring them to offer ebooks at a “reasonable” price to libraries

Yohanna Anderson has just written eloquently about ebook price-gouging by publishers. As she notes, this is not just a UK problem, but affects many countries around the world. In the US, the situation is so serious that various states there have proposed legislation that requires publishers to license ebooks on “reasonable terms”. A post on …

The copyright industry wants everything filtered as it is uploaded; here’s why that will be a disaster

The history of copyright can be seen as one of increasing control by companies over what ordinary people can do with material created by others. For the online world, the endgame is where copyright holders get to check and approve every single file that is uploaded, with the power to block anything they regard as …

A few companies dominate the music market; meet the rising giant that could beat them all: Spotify

Back in September, a blog post noted that Universal Music Group (UMG) regarded streaming as key to its future. Investors agreed, pushing the company’s valuation to 45 billion euros (over $50 billion) when it made its IPO. If streaming is good for UMG, it will be even better for the company that re-invented the idea: …

Another example of how the playing field is tilted in favour of copyright owners

It’s widely known that artists of all kinds often get a raw deal from the contracts they sign.  But this kind of legal unfairness is not the only danger they face: copyright can also be turned against creators in other, illegal ways.  For example, according to a report on MarketWatch: Two men have been charged …

How to add much-needed zest to copyright: treating creators fairly by leaving them in control

One theme that is appearing more frequently both here on Walled Culture, and in wider coverage of the copyright world, is the idea that creators should remain in control of their own works.  Recent posts have underlined that currently this is far from being the case: creators of all kinds are routinely expected to hand …

Singapore starts making its copyright law fit for the digital world; others need to follow its example

The Walled Culture blog is principally about the ways in which outdated copyright is preventing the full potential of the digital world to be realised.  As such, its posts tend to be rather critical.  Happily, there are signs that some countries are beginning to realise that their copyright law needs to be radically revised, and …

Why are Taylor Swift and academics all in the same boat? And why is she more fortunate?

Last week a blog post explained why academics have lost control of their own papers, and what they can do about it. This might seem a rather limited problem, down to the unworldly nature of many researchers, who perhaps lack the necessary cunning to negotiate fair contracts with academic publishers, or who need to publish …

Cultural digitisation for the many, or cultural depredation for the few: time to choose

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian had a report on what it called the “growing market for cultural digitisation” carried out by museums and art galleries: Museums around the world are increasingly capitalising on the intellectual property of their priceless pieces, in unexpected collaborations from luxury lingerie to KFC packaging. China is leading this …

The film industry effectively solved the problem of unauthorised downloads; now it is “unsolving” it…

Copyright companies frequently invoke “piracy” when they demand new legislation or stronger enforcement of existing laws. Usually, they have a free hand to claim what they like about these “pirates” and their motivation – we rarely hear from the latter about why they do it. That makes a post on TorrentFreak particularly interesting. It’s a …

Can Nigeria lead the way in modernising outdated copyright laws through expanded exceptions?

When people talk and write about copyright, they generally mean US or EU laws. It’s true that most recent developments in the field – notably many bad ones – have taken place in these two geographic regions. But the dynamics among nations is changing. First came the BRIC group – Brazil, Russia, India, and China …

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