Characteristics of a new copyright system (ctd)

In my three previous posts, I explained why I believe the current copyright system is broken, what the requirements of a new system would be, and what the characteristics of a new system could be.

That last post only addressed part of the characteristics – here’s the rest.

1.    The platform will become a social marketplace for content empowering the users.

In today’s world, authors must either publish themselves on the web, with all risks of illegal copying, or put their stuff on Facebook or other social media, thereby relinquishing all control.

This platform will offer a middle ground. Creators can provide their stuff along a number of ways, and the platform will allow them better and effective enforcement.

Effective protection will become possible, because the platform will effectively become the standard of proof (including, after some time, for “old” copyright cases) of ownership.

This will be the marketspace for musicians, writers, artists, and all creators of content.

By registering their content they will have more control over its distribution than any currently existing distribution channel – they will be able to choose how their content is distributed, re-used etc. On that basis, it will be easier to enforce those choices – because they will be clear.

Call it the social network that really empowers its users.

2.    Users know what they get

In today’s system, users don’t know what they get.

They are hardly informed of what they can do with what they buy online, but in practice, their rights are typically extremely limited.

However, this overkill of restriction leads consumers straight to the assumption that they can do anything, as in an obvious act of revenge or resentment.

But users are not as stupid, indifferent or hostile as the current system expects them to be. When they become interactive players, who will not only acquire content, but also post it straight back (e.g. when they’ve altered it, or created a derivative work), they will quickly understand and value the interest in “fair play”.

The current system gives users no incentive whatsoever to play fair – users who do play fair only feel like being ripped off every time they get upgrade their technology.

But people prefer being fair over any other kind of action – we just haven’t given them the tools empowering them to do so yet.

3.    For Software, it will boost both FOSS and proprietary software

Already, the open source movement is starting to put FOSS software into a registration system.

The new platform I propose would include FOSS deposit and registration, but would go further.

By allowing registration and upload of source code under a FOSS license, the duty of making available the source under the relevant license would become easy, centralized, extremely cheap and very transparent. This will encourage the uptake and enforceability of fOSS licenses.

But also for proprietary software, a similar system needs to be set up.

Source code can be deposited in a safe, confidential and protected way for proprietary software. Automatic screenings will then apply to ensure it does not contain any other, previously deposited software.

For proprietary software, the new copyright will have last a lot shorter, though. There is no economic need to make it last any longer than five years. After that, unless the owner pays a fee, it will be released into the public domain. After the first five years, the fee doubles every two years for further extension. That way, we ensure that any software that has low or limited commercial value, is released in order to allow further technological innovation, interoperability etc… Very successful software can remain proprietary much longer, but no longer for “ever”, as is now the case.

However, the public registration system (and automatic control with existing work) will remain a very strong incentive for businesses in proprietary software to register their work.

4.    Licensing will be done automatically, and the platform will have an open format

The platform will operate as an exchange for licensing content. Content that is offered under certain restrictions in this new copyright system, will be automatically offered for licensing and resale at prices fixed by the author.

In other words, everyone will be able to offer their music through a new form of iTunes, not just those with a contract with record companies. And through registration, authors will be enabled and empowered to choose their own online model of distribution.

It seems advisable to make sure the platform is in an open format, allowing easy API development, and the creation of new applications and ways to distribute content made available on the platform.

It is impossible to envisage all the possible new ways of distribution of content that new businesses will come up with – but the platform should enable this as much as possible.

5.    It can be used for pretty much anything that can be digitized

As the digital world becomes ever more an essential feature of every part of our life, this platform will enable a vast array of activities to become identifiable, traceable, exchangeable, and governed by their creators.

Examples are the creative barcode, in essence a registration system, but also all future files for activities like 3D printing (like Shapeways).

All such systems would benefit from (or tap into, or being replaced by) this platform.

6.    It will fundamentally alter copyright

Currently, copyright is clearly too restrictive. It is not respected, and does not function properly.

By limiting effective copyright to registered work, offering authors an real choice on how they want their work to be used, drastically reducing the duration of copyright, and re-introducing the possibility to transfer work to the public domain, this platform will enable and stimulate innovation and creativity, while at the same time increasing the protection and enforceability of registered works.

Moreover, the duration of this new “i”copyright will have to be much more limited.

For content, which is not software, terms of 10 or 20 years should apply. For software or technical inventions, the initial duration would be 5 years. Any renewal would be subject to increasing fees (doubling every 2 years).

The income from these fees should be sufficient to cover the costs of the system.

As to enforcement, the principle of registration should make enforcement (and compliance) a lot easier. A potential way to make it cheaper is to alter the role of collection societies (who are currently facing extinction) into enforcement agencies, allowing them to take a cut of proceeds.

In my next post, the last on this topic, I will address the issues of how such a system can work, and who would be the winners and losers.