As I explained in my previous post, the current copyright system is highly dysfunctional. It doesn’t even come close to achieving its twin goals of promoting and protecting creativity. The main reason is that its underlying principles reflect a 19th century reality, rather than a 21st century one.
In this post, I will take a more positive approach. I will discuss, from a rather general point of view, what the requirements of a new copyright system could be.
Because, if we want to set up a better system, we should start out by trying to understand the requirements that will enable such a system to become and remain successful.
First and foremost, we need to take into account technology. This is because technology has played such an important, disruptive role in making the current copyright system obsolete. It’s not just the peer-to-peer file sharing of music, but also collaborative ways of making and sharing music (an important aspect of music that the pre-Napster music industry ignored or was even actively seeking to prevent). Throw in Open Source, Wikipedia, automated development of software, the Creative Commons, and many other ways in which technology fundamentally alters the way in which creativity, information and innovation exist in society and play a role in its economic development.
And we need to ensure that we don’t limit ourselves to today’s technology. Any new copyright system must be much more quickly adaptable to new, disruptive technological change, that is almost certain to arrive.
The second requirement is transparency. A transparency that must exist at the level of attribution, protection and enforcement of copyright.
The third is a need for simplified, standardized, methods of licensing that take into account the existence of the Internet or its successor (which will give us, in any event, more connectivity).
Other requirements are the need for an efficient system of protection, based on objective facts, with, as much as possible, a level playing field between small and large operators.
We also need the unlocking of the potential of all the content and creativity created throughout the last century, but currently locked away by the Berne Convention.
We need an easy marketplace, allowing for transparent and simple transactions between licensors and licensees, authors and users, and members of a community.
We need a system that recognizes the limited lifespan of both content and software, and the fact that our internet-driven business models are infinitely more complex and sophisticated – and become ever more so.
Put simply, we need a radical new copyright, adapted to the reality of the digital age.