Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our fair deal for a fair digital future

Our Fair Deal is crowdsourcing ideas for what we the people want to see in trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated. Go to the Our Fair Deal to learn more or to participate, or to this OpenMedia site which has a convenient form to fill out.

Here is my vision for A Fair Deal:

Trade treaty negotiations involve broad-based, open consultation with the public and all groups with an interest in participating. We should be hearing about what is happening from our elected representatives, not through leaks! This is completely in the spirit of what governments say that they want to do - it would fulfill the commitments made by many of our governments through the Open Government Partnership.

Copyright should be fair, balanced, and reflect not only the desires of "copyright holders", but also the important and not entirely understood role that copying has always played in the development of human civilization. Human language, manners, and basic life skills are learned by copying. Storytelling, music, and arts aren't just about a few people making a living; they are about all of us building communities, expressing and fulfilling our potential. Artists have always copied from each other - the latest techniques, approaches, philosophies. New movements in art and music involve a lot of copying, and this is not inconsistent with artists making a living. Balance is also needed to provide an environment that can facilitate ongoing creativity and innovation, as excessively strong intellectual property rules favour a few owners of "intellectual property". This is a system that appears likely to lead to concentration of ownership in the hands of a few, as has been the trend with scholarly publishing in the last few decades.

In order to achieve a more fair and balanced copyright, here is what I see as needing to happen: 
  •  there already is an international body dedicated to intellectual property, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) - discussions of intellectual property and copyright should be limited to this forum and removed from other international negotiations. If governments are negotiating with countries that are not signatory to WIPO, then signing WIPO could be part of the negotiations 
  • formally recognize at something like an international constitution that culture, community, and the public interest are important goals, not just economic benefits of intellectual property. For example, strong intellectual property laws designed to protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the health of those who cannot afford the medicines, are not good public policy. This does not mean that the interests of the industry are irrelevant, rather that we need to recognize that this not the only thing that is relevant - ultimately, the purpose of a pharmaceutical industry should be the health of the public, with economic sustainability of the industry a key but secondary sub-goal.
  • make open access - free online access to everywhere, everywhere with an internet connection with few or no copyright restrictions - the default for all information and resources paid for by the public (government data and publications, government-funded scholarly research)
  • eliminate automatic copyright; require a creator to take at least some simple step (e.g. the inverse of creative commons) in order to assert copyright 
  • limit the term of copyright to 10 years with one extension on request 
  • expand fair dealing - support strong net neutrality 
  • support strong personal privacy protection measures everywhere 
  • added July 27: the penalties for copyright infractions should be proportionate to the infraction, and to other types of societal penalties. Downloading movies for personal viewing should at most be at about the level of hopping on a bus without paying.
That's my vision. What's yours? Please participate!

Thank you very much to the organizers of Our Fair Deal for providing a venue for this crowdsourcing.

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