Saturday, November 07, 2009

The UK IP Office: Creativity and Innovation More Important Than IP

The UK Government is going from strength to strength. First Hack the Government and now the UK IP Office has published a very thoughtful and critical report on the future of intellectual property, “The Way Ahead : A Strategy for Copyright In The Digital Age”.
The UK IP Office is the official government body responsible for Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom.
Apart from the compulsory background chapter – the history of IP and a description of the current legal situation – it contains a pragmatic and surprisingly neutral analysis of the consequences of the current legal system.
Technology means the capability to create, use and distribute copyright works is now in the hands of the individual.” (page 22)
The UK IP Office’s conclusion is that the current IP laws have a low legitimacy in the public’s eye and needs to be reformed to get accepted. They also conclude that recent politics and heavy lobbying from the IP industry have undermined the public’s trust in the law’s principle of equality of justice.
The copyright system suffers from a marked lack of public legitimacy. [...] The system is often unable to accommodate certain uses of copyright works that a large proportion of the population regards as legitimate fair and reasonable. [...] Our consultation has revealed that the public legitimacy of copyright has also been impacted by difficulties identified in the relationship between authors and rights holders, for instance those who do not receive a fair reward from those who exploit their works. [...] These difficulties have a very real impact on perceptions of the copyright system. The copyright system must be seen as fair to authors and users if it is to command greater public respect. This perception of unfairness to authors has wider currency. There is a persistent belief among consumers (as well as among some authors) that authors get relatively little from deals with major rights holders. This seems to reinforce attitudes that copyright infringement is a victimless crime ‘because the author won’t see a difference’.” (page 28-29)
For a legal system to retain its legitimacy, the public must believe that laws differ from politics. Laws must be separate from and “above” politics, economics, culture, and the values or preferences of judges.
A legal and political system whose essential principles, procedures, and styles are created by those with strong financial resources and substantial property, sooner or later will show that everybody is not treated equally.
The survival of state institutions depends on the public’s perceived legitimacy. Most people obey governmental authorities not just to avoid punishment, but because they believe those authorities have the right to make demands and because they feel that complying is the right thing to do.
For the most part, the public polices itself. We feel an obligation to follow the decisions of group authorities and group rules. But an increasing political cynicism has undercut current IP law’s legitimacy. The introduction of HADOPI and other new IP related laws have diluted the public’s trust in the public system as well as the authorities that uphold these laws. There is a widespread discontent with the current system. The opinion is that these laws are not fair. They are designed only for those with money and resources.
The Government observes that the muscular language of enforcement emphasising theft is unhelpful and problematic. It would be useful for everyone to recognise that a loyal customer base is alienated when the distinction between criminal liability and civil infringement is not made clear. The ‘cooperation not criminalisation’ approach of the Featured Artists Coalition is encouraging.” (page 47)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our Visby Agenda - a new ICT policy in EU

The European Union is about to form a new ICT policy agenda replacing the current i2010 vision. They're discussing the most important policy questions for the period 2010-2015 (and beyond) and they need our help to get it right.

Therefore I think we should ask ourselves five short questions:

  1. What do you think the e-society will look like in 2015 and beyond? What has changed for worse and better? (i.e. the role of technology in society, or the role of society in technology)

  2. How would you like it to have evolved? (If you could rule the world)

  3. What do you think politicians should do about this? (what is needed to make sure that 2 is realized instead of 1?)

  4. What do you think politicians should not do in order to fulfill your vision?

  5. Which five other people do you think should answer this meme?
My answers to 1-4 are:

I won’t predict, but I hope that e-society will be of benefit to the citizens and stimulates innovation and use without put democratic values at risk.

An ICT policy agenda should focus on general topics and not comprise different policies for each and every sector or trend in society. There are definitely conflicting issues and a balance between individual rights with those of the public, but in general it should supervise people’s natural rights and ensure that these rights are executed fairly, without infringement by another individual or organization or company.

I’m concerned about most governments’ narrow-mindedness. Today they mostly to stand up for big content owners such as record companies and Hollywood studios. Today they are mostly concerned about restricting transparency and public access to governmental documents.

Most high-level proposals today focus on forcing ISPs around the world to spy on their subscribers and turn them off if the content providers think they violate some copyright law. They only satisfy the needs of those who can afford expensive lawyers and lobbyists. It is not reasonable that the wealthiest people can dictate the laws with intellectual property as a strategic business tool. The rights are more often used to keep potential competitors away, than to protect the value of individual achievement or innovation.

A democracy is dependent on the citizen’s possibility to influence the policy. Without public access to information, there is no real democracy. In societies without transparency decisions are taken behind locked doors. That is a good environment for conspiracy theories, populism and extremism. Transparency and public control is a fundament for democracy.

E-policy should facilitate the growth of individuals, organizations and communities that are capable of managing their own continuing transformation, and not to control and direct. E-policy should put less stress on to know what’s best for a particular individual, community, organization, in a particular place, at a particular time, but try to make the best use of local knowledge and the learning experiences. (That’s governmental speech for “crowd sourcing” and all that)

5. I think these should respond to this meme:

(This meme originated at Our Visby Agenda)