Despre reforma copyrightului în UE

Miercuri am participat la o dezbatere organizată de Asociația pentru Tehnologie și Internet și de Asociația Națională a Bibliotecarilor și Bibliotecilor Publice din România. Scopul dezbaterii a fost să colecteze puncte de vedere privitoare la reforma copyrightului în UE. A fost o discuție constructivă și, în ansamblu, am fost de acord cu majoritatea punctelor de vedere. La final, mi-am trimis și în scris opiniile (sper că și restul participanților).

Mi-am exprimat și eu punctul de vedere. Paradoxal, adesea am simțit că sunt perceput ca radical, chiar și într-un grup de oameni care ar avea numai de câștigat din reducerea puterilor copyrightului. 🙂 Îmi reiau și aici opiniile (în engleză, nu le mai traduc).


I chose to fill this form in English to help its circulation.

Before we can nitpick about details in the copyright law, it helps to look for principles at a higher level.

First, laws take some freedoms from individuals and give back benefits to society as a whole. For example, we gave up the freedom to make noise in the street at night so that entire neighborhoods may sleep better.

Second, a state’s mission is to spend society’s resources wisely. When spending money on a highway, the state must make the best possible deal. Likewise, when the state trades away our individual freedom to share knowledge, the state has to make the best possible deal.

Third, a state should never favor a particular profession, industry or company. The state may grant limited privileges to such groups when the interests of society demand it. We pay judges a lot because that makes them harder to corrupt and society benefits from a better judicial system. But there is no „balance” here. There is no natural right of judges to be paid more. We do it as a means to modify their behavior.

These principles must apply to copyright law as well. First, we as individuals give up, temporarily, the freedom to copy works, so that society as a whole can benefit from more published works and become more literate. Second, our state must spend our freedom wisely. Third, there is no „balance” between authors and society. Copyrights are only granted as a means to modify the authors’ behavior and to encourage them to produce more works.

What about copyright in the digital age? Before the Internet, when we were asked to give up the freedom to copy books, we did not mind. It was a freedom that most people could not really exercise anyway. Printing presses were forbiddingly expensive. So we traded a freedom we could not exercise for a tangible improvement in society’s literacy. But since the Internet, copying is a freedom that is much easier to exercise, and that people all over the planet are trying to exercise, no matter how many smear campaigns the publishing trusts are subjecting them to.

So what he have here is a former useless byproduct in our life (the freedom to copy books) that we used to trade for something. And that byproduct has suddenly become more valuable to us and we would like to either (1) keep it and stop trading it altogether or (2) trade it for a hell of a lot more.

Copyright law is in dire need of radical editing, far beyond nitpicking over details. Copyright law has long since stopped being a motor of progress. It is an anachronistic deterrent of progress. Copyright is a tool in the hands of a few industry owners. It is impossible to argue that „lifetime plus 70 years” brings any benefits to society. What is worse, through cheap propaganda and fallacious analogies, society is being educated to take that duration for granted.

Copyright law is broken beyond repair and, rather than tweaking at inconsequential technicalities, we must go back to the principles and rewrite it from scratch. Studies show that a copyright length of 10 years after publication would continue to stimulate authors’ creativity, while giving back to individuals most of our natural freedom to share knowledge.

Despre drepturile de autor auxiliare (în esență, editorii și-ar dori să taxeze fiecare accesare a unui link de la o pagină la alta):

Ancillary copyright is a terrible idea. It violates the freedoms of speech and fair use for no defensible reason. Some direct consequences of a hyperlink tax would be:

(0) A transformation of the Internet into a plutocracy. All modern search engines operate on the principle that people link to other pages freely. That is the democracy of the Internet: people tend to link to pages they deem interesting. If we mix affordability into this, we will skew the relevance of search results everywhere.
(1) A degradation of search results. If search engines need to spend money to link to certain sites, they may opt not to. This economic reality will cause news publishers a lot of harm. They benefit a lot from the free publicity and traffic they are receiving from news aggregators.
(2) Fragmentation of news portals. If certain aggregators sign exclusive deals with certain publishers, then users will only be able to read certain newspapers on certain websites.
(3) An incentive to get more traffic, not to write better news. If traffic to news is more profitable than the news itself, then publishers may spend more time improving the former in detriment to the latter.

Despre dreptul la panoramă (da, ați citit bine: dreptul de a face o fotografie în timp ce stai pe stradă este un drept care ți se dă, nu este un drept natural, și în majoritatea țărilor el este foarte restricționat).

Panorama rights would be a non-issue if copyright in general had decent terms – say, a duration of 10 years after publication and no restrictions on non-commercial redistribution. But if we must dally over details, then please remember that you are asking people to forgo a right that is easy and pleasurable to exercise: the right to take photographs while standing in the street.

What benefits does society gain from harsh restrictions? The burden is not on us to beg for an exception. The burden is on the state to explain to us why taking away a freedom is good for society.

I propose two measures:

  1. No restrictions on non-commercial redistribution.
  2. No restrictions on works built with public funds. Such works belong in the public domain, since the public has commissioned them. Please remember that the state and the architect are only executors. There is no „balance” between society’s interests and architects’ interests.

Despre geo-blocking

Geoblocking is futile. It just doesn’t work. Please don’t try to implement it. You will only cause distress to foreign students, to people on vacation and to millions of EU residents currently living in another EU state.

The Internet was not built with country borders in mind. I am not implying that we deregulate the Internet entirely. I am saying that the law must evolve to incorporate new technologies. Otherwise, we risk stymieing fascinating discoveries because we try to make them fit within a narrow, obsolescent, material-minded code of laws.

Despre reforma legii drepturilor de autor în România în particular

Romania, like the rest of the world, needs to drastically shorten the duration of copyright. Unfortunately, the Bern Convention imposes an absurd minimum duration of lifetime plus 50 years. This convention has long since stopped being a driver of creativity. Nowadays it is blatant tyranny.

Therefore, Romania should denounce the Bern convention.


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