Thursday, 28 February 2008

Content creators as criminals

It takes a good speaker to make copyright and IP interesting, but we were lucky to have one yesterday. Larry Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University and founder of Creative Commons, gave what had to be the best session of the conference. It was based on the premise that laws surrounding copyright, which were developed many, many years ago to deal with mainly the printed medium, are being applied to regulate the use of digital media, and it isn’t working. A good example he gave was a mother who posted a 29 second clip of her 18 month old son dancing on YouTube. In the background there was a a Prince track playing, and the artist’s distributors, Universal, asked YouTube to take the clip down, as it infringed their copyright - you can find lots of references to it on the internet, especially as the mother sued Universal and got her clip back!

There are many things you can do with a book which are unregulated – you can read it, give it away, even use it as a door stop. There are fair use agreements which mean you can copy parts of it, for example you want to review it. However, in terms of digital media, every use is considered to be equivalent to making a copy, for example every time someone views a web page, so every “use” has to be regulated and requires permission.

Creative Commons licences were created to allow content creators – who are often amateurs as opposed to professionals – to specify the rights they want to apply to their content.

He finished with the thought that either our kids will stop creating, or there will be a revolution and they will reject copyright law. It isn’t acceptable to build a world where the most creative are considered to be criminals.

Excellent speaker, and very thought provoking talk.

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