Fair Use Doesn't Weaken Copyright Law, It Strengthens It
from the more-maximalist-cluelessness dept
It’s interesting to see the reaction of some copyright maximalists to the just released Hargreaves Review of intellectual property and innovation in the UK. Apparently, many in the old line legacy businesses are actually breathing a sigh of relief that it didn’t advocate for the UK to implement fair use:
BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said, “Professor Hargreaves has sensibly rejected Google’s flawed case for a significant weakening of UK copyright. He has recognised that innovation and economic growth are best stimulated by licensing the IP we create in the UK, and that strong creative industries that succeed on a global stage are fundamental to recovery from recession.”
I have a few problems with this. First and foremost, the fretting over US-style fair use still seems bizarre to me. It’s not like it’s unheard of. It exists in the US and it’s not like fair use has really represented any hurdle for the recording and film industries in this country. They act as if it would be horrible, but present no evidence at all.
But, the bigger point is, I have significant problems with Taylor claiming that fair use is about a “significant weakening of UK copyright.” Fair use is not about weakening copyright, it’s about strengthening copyright, in making it more flexible to be able to bend, rather than break, when content is used in certain socially useful ways (what copyright law is supposed to encourage). In the same way that you want a building that will sway somewhat in an earthquake, rather than try to remain rigid, fair use is supposed to provide that kind of flexibility. That’s about strengthening the overall point of copyright.
In fact, I’d argue that Taylor’s anti-fair use position does significantly more harm to copyright in the long run, in that it makes it less flexible, and makes it illegal to do things that people know at a fundamental level should be legal. Thus, the lack of fair use actually leads people to respect copyright even less, and to recognize that it’s a failed and outdated system.
Fair use doesn’t weaken copyright law. It strengthens it.