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 …

Can Nigeria lead the way in modernising outdated copyright laws through expanded exceptions?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

BookTok shows how fans can power sales; imagine what could be done without copyright anxiety

A little while back, the Guardian covered the rising literary power of BookTok – short videos on TikTok devoted to the pleasures and pains of reading. As well as plenty of background information about the BookTok phenomenon, it has the following perceptive comment from Kat McKenna, a marketing and brand consultant specialising in children’s and …

Adding DRM code to games is hardly fair play: it can slow them down and even stop them from loading

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a strange thing. It is software code that is added to a product without providing any benefit to the user. It is designed to limit the freedom of people to use things they thought they owned – “because copyright”. For this reason, the Free Software Foundation prefers to use the …

Is protecting copyright more important than saving lives during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked terrible suffering across the world, we are fortunate that we already have several vaccines that have been shown to be highly-effective in reducing the number of deaths and hospitalisation rates. Discovering vaccines proved easier than expected, but ensuring that everyone – including people in developing countries – has access …

Squaring the music streaming circle: fair remuneration for artists, easy discoverability for users

Streaming dominates the recording music industry today, and everyone assumes that things won’t change for a while. But there are two opposing aspects of the current business models for music streaming that are hard to reconcile. On the one hand, the fixed-price approach of Spotify, Apple and Google is great for users who can afford …

Does copyright give companies the right to search your home and computer?

One reason why copyright has become so important in the digital age is that it applies to the software that many of us use routinely on our smartphones, tablets and computers. In order to run those programs, you must have a licence of some kind (unless the software is in the public domain, which rarely …

Do 20 consecutive words deserve copyright protection?

One problem with copyright is that it lasts too long, as an earlier post on this blog explored. But there’s another issue: the fact that copyright protects even very short texts. This was an issue in a recent court case in Sweden, discussed on The IPKat blog. Unusually, perhaps, for a copyright case, it concerned …

Moving beyond dysfunctional copyright: true fans, and a new middle class for the creator economy

It’s easy pointing out that copyright is deeply dysfunctional: there are new examples of the profound mismatch between this 18th-century law and 21st-century creativity coming to light every day. Much harder is devising alternatives that are not niche solutions, but which have a wide applicability. One of the first people to do this was Kevin …

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 …