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 …

How to redeem big, bad music streaming so that it serves artists, fans – and local communities

Music streaming services are great – for listeners, who gain access to huge quantities of music, even if they don’t end up owning any of it. But it’s hardly a secret that streaming services produce very little income for the musicians involved – even the big names earn a pittance – with most of the …

A database of public domain works could reduce upload filter overblocking; it’s absurd we need one

One of many problems with the upload filters that Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive will bring in is that they are likely to overblock. That is, they will stop perfectly lawful materials from being uploaded because of flaws in the filters’ algorithms. Among those blocked lawful materials will certainly be public domain items. …

A new US law makes it easier for copyright trolls to terrorise people with claims of alleged infringement

The legal landscape is already strongly tilted in favour of copyright holders. But that doesn’t stop the copyright maximalists from demanding more ways to enforce their intellectual monopolies. The latest expansion of enforcement powers is doubly concerning. First, because its explicit purpose is to make it even easier to bring cases against alleged copyright infringement. …

Copyright is more important than privacy, says top EU court advisor

We recently wrote about the preliminary decision of Advocate General Szpunar, an advisor to the EU’s Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), concerning geoblocks. The same Advocate General (AG) has come out with another opinion, this time concerning important questions of copyright and privacy. The basic issue is whether EU Member States can …

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