Thursday, March 06, 2008

Which in translation means...

An attempt at translating my previous post into plain English:

Copyright law is complicated and affects loads of people, who we can divide into 3 main groups:
  • creators
  • business
  • the public
For copyright to work, it has to be balanced enough for all three groups to benefit. But the

best system for creators ≠ best system for business ≠ best system for the public.

So we need a messy compromise, where no group will be completely happy but all three benefit. If we did come up with a compromise we would have no idea how it might work in practice because very few people have ever tried to measure, in a rigorous scholarly way, how copyright works in real life and who the winners and losers have been.

The American film industry was convinced in the early 1980s, for example, that the video cassette recorder would destroy their industry due to home taping. Yet in the end sales of video cassettes and DVDs became their biggest source of income.

Public debate about copyright tends to be dominated by unhelpful rhetoric, language and name-calling, like "pirates", which deliberately mixes up the interests of the three main groups - creators, business and the public. So proposed changes, for example, are often dressed up as being in the interests of artists/creators, whereas in reality they are about protecting business interests or public access, depending on which side the person calling for the change happens to be on.

The copyright system is going through a bit of an upheaval and lots of people want to change it to suit themselves.

Verdict: Not great on the plain English scale (and it needs more engaging narrative on wizards and goblins) but possibly not too bad for a first attempt?

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