Is copyright reform on the way?

Torrentfreak has a thoughtful piece about copyright reform. As you can imagine its swings towards a very liberal reform, which sounds about right to me.

Let’s take a look at what happened when the compact cassette arrived. It was sort of an analog removable hard drive with music, that you plugged into an analog music player – the new thing at the time being that you could also write to it. Cassette players popped up everywhere, in particular in a form called ghettoblasters, where you’d carry a rather large box with loudspeakers and two cassette slots around, not to mention quite a few batteries.

Note that I wrote two cassette slots. All of these players also advertised how good they were at copying cassette tapes. You’d pop in the source tape, put a blank tape in the recording slot, and hit a gigantic button named “copy”. This was a feature that was heavily advertised – the better the blasters were at copying, the more music its owner would be able to collect.

The record industry at the time went absolutely ballistic, and said “home taping is killing music” in a largely ridiculed campaign. The bands at the time gave them the finger and printed that logo with the text “home taping is killing record industry profits” instead, adding “we left the reverse side [of the tape] blank, so you can help”. Nevertheless, this was the start of the war against ordinary people copying, something that has only escalated to ridiculous levels today. (Can you imagine a two-slot DVD player being sold today that would have a huge red button marked COPY on it?)

Nice example which later goes on…

When today’s teenagers have grown up enough to be pulling the strings, do you really believe they’ll buy the fairytale stories of how the monopoly construct that all of them saw as plainly abusive, oppressive, and extortionate is needed “for the artists to get paid”? When all they saw – when all everybody saw – was a monopoly construct that silenced artists, silenced challenges to the establishment’s status quo, killed technological innovation, and made sure that rich multinational corporations could buy the power they wanted?

There’s not a chance they’ll buy the fairytale stories from the copyright industry. They’ll all remember their own firsthand experiences. And they’ll kill the monopoly entirely, to thunderous applause.

I certainly like to imagine this to be true, but it doesn’t seem to include the fact people, the average slide of people towards a conservative outlook.

Of course this is nothing compared to the works of Lawrence Lessig’s thoughts, which must be read if your interested in this area.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.