Characteristics of a new copyright system.

In the two previous posts, I explored the problems with the current copyright system, by examining the wrong (19th century) assumptions on which the current system is based, and I made an attempt at trying to describe the requirements of a new copyright system.

In this third post, as well as the next one, I will describe what I believe should be the characteristics of a new copyright system.

1.    Any action would depend on registration.

Registration must be the cornerstone of the new copyright system.

The Berne Convention fundamentally rejects registration, but as I have written before, that just doesn’t work anymore. Moreover, we see that all around us, any new initiative around copyright (e.g. the creative barcode, but also emerging copyright licensing systems or novel ways of collective systems, but there are many, many more examples) always seems based on registration.

Today registration of digital content and software can be free. And it should effectively be free. It is perfectly possible to create a system of registration without any additional cost for the person registering.

Therefore, it makes no sense to keep costly discussions on who owns what. We should set up a system of registration, and only apply the new system to registered works.

Once registered, owners can then take all the actions they want, like licensing, assigning, put in the public domain, protect, allow derivative works, etc…

2.    Disputes on ownership need to be handled automatically.

Smart software will compare whether a file submitted (content, code, designs, etc…) does already exist. If that is the case, the file submitted is referenced and compared with previous registered files.

It should not be too onerous to develop the algorithms that would enable us to do this – my guess is they probably exist already (I will deal with costs of this system later).

If there is enough similarity, as determined by algorithmic review, the matter is submitted to an online dispute resolution system, that will determine who is the owner. Such process should be automatic, online, and with clear rules of engagement. It should not be necessary to hire a lawyer or other intermediary to complete this process.

3.    Owners will be able to choose the status of their work, based on a limited number of options.

These will be along lines essentially similar to the structure of creative commons.

Works can be made available as “Public”, “Open” or “Restricted”.

“Public” means that they are in the public domain, and that no-one can own them anymore for copyright (as with a CC license, current copyright would be used to create this effect).

“Open” means that the author allows reproduction and derivative works, under certain conditions.

“Restricted” means that the author wishes to apply more traditional copyright rules, i.e. reproduction and derivative works are subject to authorization and payment (as per a classical license).

4.    Registered works can be put on a world-wide online marketplace.

In some recent reports like Hargreaves, it is suggested that works are made available on an exchange platform.

For such exchange platform to function, it is necessary to register the work.

However, my proposed system would reverse the order of priorities; by first registering, we allow for the easy creation of one or more exchange systems.

It would be recommendable to allow free interfacing – it is more likely than not that exchange systems we don’t think of will be invented by new entrepreneurs. This will unlock new creativity in business models and potential use of creative content and software.

5.    It will use the benefits of Open Source and Creative Commons.

Open Source and Creative Commons have provided the technical legal tools to force the market to accept novel ways of dealing with copyright.

Our new copyright system does therefore not necessarily need to replace the law underpinning copyright in order to work; rather it can use the existing law  in similar ways as Open Source and Creative Commons.

Any registration will effectively consist of an OSS/CC license, granting the platform and other users certain rights.

As such, it will leverage, and build upon, the development of new legal techniques initiated by OSS/CC.

In my next post, I will continue to describe what I think should be the characteristics of a new copyright system.

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