Replacing Copyright, is it time?

Ars Technica, has a nice piece about a couple of efforts to replace the current copyright law with something much more enlightened.

Suggesting something new to replace it can be a harder job, and Litman turns her attention to that task in an unpublished new paper called “Real Copyright Reform” (PDF). Part of a spate of recent reform proposals (Public Knowledge is heading another high-profile effort, for example), Litman’s quest to reform the 1976 Copyright Act is, as she acknowledges, quixotic.

“None of these proposals is likely to attract serious attention from Congress or copyright lobbyists,” she writes. “Right now the copyright legislation playing field is completely controlled by its beneficiaries. They have persuaded Congress that it is pointless to try to enact copyright laws without their assent.”

Still, academics have never limited themselves to something as tawdry as “reality,” and Litman’s theoretical work here is no exception. Her entire reform proposal is based on a few key principles: returning power to both creators and consumers, radically simplifying the law so that people can understand it without a lawyer, and beating the record companies, publishers, and movie studios about the head with a shovel.

Who might object to that? The big distributors, for one, would probably not be pleased with any plan devoted to ousting “the current vested intermediaries from their control of pieces of copyright, and return that power to the creators.”

I had a read through the PDF of Jessica Litman’s and although I found it hard to follow at first, it started making a lot of sense. The arguments and references seem to be up to scratch but as the whole piece concludes on, the fact that Copyright was never written to cover the millions of ordinary people who want to share there culture with one another. The last few extensions to Copyright have had such a massive chilling effect, maybe it is time to relook the whole damm thing from scratch, even if its going to take a lifetime it will be worth it for our children and there children.

Author: Ianforrester

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