GBS: Samuelson on the Settlement as Private Copyright Reform

It’s just a slide deck (I believe from this conference), but it seems like a very interesting presentation. Samuelson is no fan of the settlement, but the presentation also makes clear how many of the settlement’s issues are tied to deeper, structural problems in our dysfunctional system of copyright law.

Last slide is especially good:

  • Likely to lead to more class action lawsuits in © cases, efforts to achieve legislative-like resolution of disputed issues
  • G can use settlement as leverage with rights holders of © in other types of works
  • Why not use class action to achieve health care reform? What do we need a legislature for anyway since it is so dysfunctional? What does this mean for democracy?

This is really about trying to get mandated, statutory secondary licences by the back door.

Shane Simpson is widely regarded as the Australian Copyright law expert: The following is from the Review of Australian Copyright Collecting Societies conducted by Shane Simpson on behalf of the Federal Government in 1995:

“The general attitude of WIPO to statutory licences is that they should be avoided wherever collective administration is feasible. In brief, it is considered that collective administration recognises that the individual copyright owner has the essential right to control usage - even though, for ease of administration, that individual may choose to license or assign that right to a representative organisation. When that right to control is taken away, all that one is left with is a ‘right to remuneration’, which is a quite different concept to the full rights of copyright” and, “not all rights of copyright benefit from collective administration. Many exercises of the rights are best dealt with on a one-by-one basis. The most simple indicator of this is that no group of Australian copyright owners has transferred all of their rights of copyright to a society for collective administration.”

Its Worth repeating: ” no group of Australian copyright owners has transferred all of their rights of copyright to a society for collective administration.””

In reference to the argument that individual primary rights are obsolete in this modern digital age and should be replaced by statutory rights, Shane Simpson further states:

“It is very doubtful that this response is in the interest of the general community, although it is certainly in the commercial interest of certain commercial would-be, rights-user groups.”

Its worth repeating: “it is certainly in the commercial interest of certain commercial would-be, rights-user groups.”

Australias lack of awareness of the issue of ‘GBS’ may ,partly , come down to this:

The collective management of Copyright is in Australia seen as a bit of a necessary evil . And thus it is subject to a fair bit of limits: Hypothecated tax is a real issue ( a section of our constitution makes it unlikely that tax-like levies can ever easily be part of the copyright act) and monopoly Professional restrictions of terms of trade is also taken fairly seriously. Australia is very far from not having issues with Collection societies but they are not as free to seek to confuse/fudge public benefit with benefit to a professional cartel. Though they do over and over …. try.

I now aware that this is not allways the case in some other countries.

Control of usage and thus the implicit right to say no, is perhaps the acid test as to ownership of anything. The first sentence of Furphys ‘Such is life’ is : ” Unemployed at last!!” a different conception of ‘rights’ to the one lurking behind a mere “‘right to remuneration’” no?.

Copyright was a fairly good way of organising the transfer from private to public, of the ownership of things that had this common property : A copy was every bit as useful/valuable as the ‘original’.

The public eventually got to own the ‘creation’ on a sort of hire purchase basis . The price paid to the author was fair enough in its method of calculation, the more copies the more payments. And Authors and the Public were protected (to some degree) from abuses by the powerful monopoly/ oligarchies over the means of mass copying that the need for lots of capital to build the factory tended to create .

This system is not traveling so well

A lot of other purposes & agendas have been tacked on. Many involve elisions’ that link copyright with things that are at odds with its intended usage. For example copyrights that are not freely entered into ‘contracts’. Copyrights that involve payments that look quite a bit like duties paid to privileged position.

Or Simply they are so costly, Draconian and difficult to actually enforce as to tarnish the whole idea of copyright in the minds of a lot of the young and not so young.

I have just read a report that the UK 3 Strikes laws ‘will cost consumers £500m’ and add £25 a year to ISP Bills according to UK Gov impact analysis.

Copyright currently looks like a dogs breakfast.