Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings into copyright (2)

The problems in copyright are many and they are complex. The Dutch Copyright Act (in Dutch: the Authors’ law) dates back to 1912 and has been amended several times, most recently in order to extend the duration of the copyright period. But the present copyright laws, regardless of the countries in Western Europe, have not dealt with peer-to-peer networks, filesharing or format shifting.

On an incidental basis measures are proposed for putting levies on mp3 players. And those measures are likened to the draconian measures proposed in the US, breaching especially privacy. And all this for the financial interests of the movie world or the software industry, led by Microsoft. These measures will have contrary effects.

But the open letter warns that the problems are not just in the maintenance of copyright. With internet the publishing and distribution of culture is democratised and gives everyone the opportunity to become a publisher. So in principle everyone will have to deal with copyright problems. Yet the present law mainly serves the interests of distributors such as publishers, music and movie companies; besides copyright has been brought into the sphere of criminal law. However internet has affected the activities of the distribution companies.

The copyright law was originally modest in penetration and duration, but has expanded due to amendments and jurisdiction to the extent that social support for it starts to crumble. Pirate parties in many European countries are signs on the wall. Groups of voters will support these one issue parties.

Copyright law should be re-directed to its original starting point: invest protection, promotion of cultural, scientific and political artefacts, recognition of the efforts and the personality rights of the creator and, last but not least, enrichment of our cultural heritage. The contemporary Copyright Act has become an obstacle for the creators as they are more often confronted with institutes clearing the rights of other creators who figure in their works; think only of the movie maker using the song Happy Birthday in movie.

The law maker should start to balance the interests. The prolongation of copyright mans some more years of revenues from royalty. In reality it also means hidden cultural damage for not created works or not enjoyed artefacts. Reform of the Copyright Act will lead to a cultural enrichment and growth in supply and demand.

The author of the open letter, Jeroen Hellingman, member of the board of Vrijschrift, notices that a dichotomy starts to show between innovative distributors, who are moving with the times and are grabbing the new opportunities, and , on the other hand, the conservative forces, which keep milking their successes and are using conservative politician to protect their business. This development has been predicted by economists like Dr Wilfried Dolfsma.

Blog Posting Number: 987


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