from the say-that-one-again dept
David Weinberger recently had an interesting blog post about his attendance at a conference of Brazilian university librarians, where he was very encouraged to learn of the many ways in which the librarians are embracing the internet to improve access to knowledge, and are hoping this leads to much greater things. Not surprisingly, questions on copyright came up, and Weinberger notes that many he spoke to are quite worried about how copyright is holding back access to knowledge
The question of copyright seems to weigh heavily on just about everyone's mind. (Keep in mind, of course, the self-selection of those with whom I have talked.) Copyright is only perceived as an obstacle if you are intent on maximizing access to the works of human intellect and creativity. If you are afraid of what open access means, then copyright looks like a bulwark. But, if you are confident that we together -- with the invaluable aid of librarians, among others -- can overall steer ourselves right, then the current copyright regime looks like a fear-based reaction.
I think that encapsulates a number of important points. Historically, if you look at copyright, it has almost always been exactly that: a fear-based reaction
to something new -- some new technology or innovation that helped spread knowledge in a way that potentially removed barriers from a gate-keeper. And, the deeper you look, you quickly realize that almost every single one of those "fear-based reactions" was massively overhyped and had little basis in evidence, fact or reality. And yet... the laws that were passed based on fear stick around. No one ever goes back and says "hey, we passed this law because we believed the fearful claims of industry X, but it appears those fears were unfounded."
It's good to see that folks in Brazil are taking this seriously, however. We recently noted that Brazil is considering new copyright laws now, with some surprising characteristics, such as penalties
for those who inhibit fair use or the public domain. It's nice to see at least one country looking to move away from fear-based reactions when creating copyright laws.