Copyright mitigation, not balance

EU Commission VP Neelie Kroes gave a speech on copyright reform that while surely among the best on the subject from a high level politician (Techdirt coverage) is fundamentally broken.

Kroes argues that a lot has changed in the last 14 years about how information is consumed, distributed, produced, and used in research and that copyright needs to adapt to these changes. If that argument eventually obtains significant mitigation of copyright, great, but it’s mostly wrong, and I suspect questions far too little and gives away way too much to all invested in the current regime. For example:

And now let’s remind ourselves what our objectives as policymakers should be for the creative sector.

We should help artists live from their art. Stimulate creativity and innovation. Improve consumer choice. Promote our cultural heritage. And help the sector drive economic growth.

We can’t look at copyright in isolation: you have to look at how it fits into the real world. So let’s ask ourselves: how well is the current system achieving those objectives, in the world we live in today?

What about freedom? Equality?

Regarding new technologies in the last 14 years, there have been some (and Kroes was not so bold as to even hint at Napster and successors, nor broad offenses against these and the web), but those are not at all what makes copyright mitigation interesting, except down in the weeds of how specific regulations interact with specific technologies and practices — the view of the universe from the vantage of administrators and agitators of the current regime — understandably, as this is where most day to day battles are fought.

Instead, mitigation of anti-commons information policy is interesting and desirable, and has been especially pertinent at various times (eg 1800s) throughout human history, because free speech is always desirable and under threat by the embarrassments of control, corruption, and rent seeking. These are not qualities to be “balanced”, but diseases to be mitigated as much and for as long as possible.

The objectives Kroes says policymakers should have are fine, if secondary. Copyright (and patents, and sadly more) simply should not be seen as relevant to any of them, except as a barrier to be mitigated, not balanced nor adapted.

2 Responses

  1. […] regulation reform (I wrote “copyright” in the title, but the concept is applicable to mitigating other IP regimes, e.g., patent, and pro-commons regulation not based on mitigating […]

  2. […] “question” rather than “against” — my aim is not really to claim that copyright mitigation through measures such as limited terms of restriction is bad (as noted above, such a claim really […]

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