Why the emerging new copyright landscape is both good news and bad news for creators and the public

The Walled Culture blog has been writing about the hot topic of generative AI and its impact on copyright for nearly six months now. One of the sharpest commentators on this area is Dr Andres Guadamuz, whom we interviewed a year ago. He’s just written a great blog post about a video by Corridor Crew …

The EU link tax was bad enough, but Canada’s threatens to be even worse

At the heart of Walled Culture the book (available as a free ebook in various formats) is the story of the disgraceful EU Copyright Directive and how it was passed. I won’t go into the details here, except to note that Article 15, aka the snippet tax or the link tax – the idea of …

Copyright means you may need permission to put photos of your own furnished room online

One of the life’s certainties is that copyright maximalism will continue to encourage absurd rulings by complaisant courts. Here’s a rather spectacular case from Germany. It involves a “photo wallpaper”. For those of you who – like me – aren’t quite sure what that means, it is the name given to wallpapers that are essentially …

Research shows that, when given the choice, most authors don’t want excessively-long copyright terms

Last week Walled Culture mentioned the problem of orphan works. These are creations, typically books, that are still covered by copyright, but unavailable because the original publisher or distributor has gone out of business, or simply isn’t interested in keeping them in circulation. The problem is that without any obvious point of contact, it’s not …

Copyright has been one of life’s certainties: but will it always be?

Copyright seems to be a fixture of our legal, economic and social systems. For 300 years, it has formed the backbone of the structures used to incentivise and remunerate creators. During that time, copyright has been extended repeatedly in length and breadth. The original term of the 1710 Statute of Anne – 14 years’ monopoly …

How publishers lobbied to “axe the reading tax” on ebooks, won – and then paid it to themselves

One of the (many) villains in Walled Culture the book (free ebook versions) is the publishing industry, specifically in the context of the transition from analogue books to ebooks. What could have been one of the most important expansions of the power and possibility of the book form became instead its opposite – a diminishment …

In a world where AI art is cheap and easy to generate, do we still need copyright?

To say that AI-generated art is controversial would be something of an understatement. The appearance last year of free tools like Stable Diffusion has not just thrown the world of art into turmoil, it has raised profound questions about the nature of human creativity. AI art also involves thorny issues of copyright that have piqued …

The copyright world is preparing to hobble yet another innovative technology – generative AI

Last week Walled Culture noted that there already are two lawsuits against generative AI systems that are causing such a buzz at the moment. Both those legal actions involved the visual arts, but as this blog noted back in October last year, generative AI is going to have a massive impact across all the creative …

The first lawsuit against generative AI seems doomed to fail because it misunderstands the technology

Back in October last year, a Walled Culture post noted that generative AI programs were likely to have a massive impact on both copyright and creation. When programs can produce free texts, images and sounds that are “good enough” for most everyday purposes, copyright becomes largely irrelevant. Creativity is impacted too, but not just in …

Finnish Parliament reminds us that copyright should not trump fundamental human rights

One of the key dogmas the copyright industry fights hard to impose on the world is that copyright should trump all other considerations, and in all situations. For its supporters, copyright should even be placed above basic human rights, if ever a clash arises between them. For the most part, legislators and judges have allowed …

Peer review has failed, and that’s great news – for diamond open access, science and society

Over on his Experimental History blog, which he describes as “cognitive sneezing and interior design for your head“, Adam Mastroianni has two great posts about peer review in science. Wikipedia defines peer review as “the evaluation of work by one or more people with similar competencies as the producers of the work (peers). It functions …

Public domain: a belated step forward, two huge steps back

The first day of the year is a special time in the copyright world. It’s when a flood of works whose copyright has expired finally emerge from behind the walls. Exactly when that happens depends on the details of each country’s legislation. Moreover, that legislation can change, with knock-on effects for when works enter the …

How Minecraft’s “End Poem” ended up in the public domain

Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time according to Wikipedia, with hundreds of millions of copies sold. The game concludes with the End Poem by the writer and musician Julian Gough, created in 2011. In December 2022, Gough wrote a post on his Substack site “The Egg and the Rock” in which he …

SoundCloud’s “Fan Powered Royalties”: a halfway house towards the true fans approach

Regular readers of this blog will know that Walled Culture is a fan of the true fans concept – the idea that creators can be supported directly and effectively by the people who love their work. The true fans model has been up and running for some years now, although it hasn’t generally been framed …

Copyright isn’t working: all around the world, writers are struggling to earn a decent wage

One of the central themes here on Walled Culture is that copyright isn’t doing its main job. It is supposed to provide fair remuneration for the work that creators do, and act as an incentive to produce more in the future. But as I explored in Walled Culture the book, the evidence is that copyright …

Copyright consultations are opaque and off-putting: time to apply some (artificial) intelligence

One of the reasons that copyright is so unbalanced in favour of companies, especially Big Content, is that the process of bringing in new copyright laws is hard for ordinary members of the public to engage with. Typically, new laws come about after government consultations. Although these are public in the sense that they are …

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