Monday, 21 May 2012
The Case for Copyright Reform by Christian Engström and Rick Falkvinge
Shortly on the heels of the United States Pirate Party’s No Safe Harbor comes another Pirate Party affiliated release, The Case for Copyright Reform (available as a free download here). Its Swedish authors, Engström and Falkvinge, had a hand in the former as well; Falkvinge is perhaps the most famous of pirates, having established the very first Pirate Party in Sweden.
As its title implies, The Case for Copyright Reform delivers a message on the need to change our existing copyright legislations. To its credit, it delivers much more than that in its short breadth. We start with the authors throwing their suggested copyright policy reform; we then move on to read the actual case for this reform, a case presented at the philosophical level while making the most of historical facts; and we finish off by going back to the suggested reform, this time with explanations on how these reforms address the issues revealed in the case’s discussion. The resulting read is a very convincing, easy to read, interesting and totally sensical presentation of a business case to change a major player in the development of our culture.
To most people, the main interest in the book would be knowing what the suggested copyright policy is. In short, it talks about removing copyright off personal use and limiting it to commercial applications only. It also talks about reducing copyright to five years from its current life + 70, while allowing extensions for up to 20 years if the copyright owners register their creation at a publicly accessible database. Personally, I find the case behind the suggestions much more interesting. As I said already, it is very well laid out; what I haven’t said is how effectively it nulls all the various arguments coming in from the copyright industry as it tries to fortify its position. The Case for Copyright Reform clearly exposes these arguments for the meaningless and misleading spin they are.
By far the most interesting aspect of The Case for Copyright Reform are the argument against the current copyright legislations acting out as inhibitors of cultural development. Culture is, by far, the most important of human achievements (unless you fancy a trek to Stone Age times); it should be defended, and its ability to further evolve should be boosted rather than impeded as current copyright does. Follow this logic and you will arrive at an indisputable conclusion: being a pirate, file sharing and all, is not just an effective way to get to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode despite the contents industry’s mighty efforts to block you from doing so; it is also your civil duty as a responsible citizen that cares for his/her fellow humans.
If there was anything I found missing in The Case of Copyright Reform, it is the personal touch. I understand why society would benefit if Disney’s copyright protection is reduced, but what about the rights I have over the photo I took of my grandmother last year that I then uploaded to the net? I believe the concerned reader would have benefited from explanations on privacy vs. copyright as they apply to such personal cases. After all, not all of this book’s readers will have a firm concept for what privacy stands for.
Overall: Social cases are rarely this well presented, particularly in the evidence based department. The Case for Copyright Reform may tilt society’s perceptions enough in the right direction; I hear the Australian Greens have already expressed an interest. 4.5 out of 5 stars from me.
Adequate disclosure: Yours truly is currently a member of Pirate Party Australia.