Has The Copyright War Been Won -- And If So, Are We About To Lose It Again?
from the no-time-for-celebration dept
Reading Techdirt, it's all-too-easy to get the impression that copyright is an utter disaster for the public -- with current laws abused by governments, companies and trolls alike, and international agreements like TPP aiming to make the situation worse. But as Andres Guadamuz points out on his Technollama blog, things aren't quite as bleak as they sometimes seem:
we have continued to win battle after battle where it really matters. In the last few years Internet activists looking for more openness and more rational copyright policies have had several important victories:
But he warns against complacency:
The defeat of SOPA and PIPA.
The demise of ACTA.
The Marrakesh Treaty.
A growing number of countries have recognised the need to make publicly-funded research available to the public.
Open access is fast becoming an acceptable method of scholarly publication.
A non-negligible number of governments are opening up data to public uses.
Creative Commons is becoming the de facto open content licensing scheme, and has now been adopted by international organisations such as the World Bank, OECD, WIPO and UNESCO.
The copyright industry has had to change business models and enforcement strategies, and it has become easier to obtain content through legitimate means.
Only a year ago Aaron Swartz was hounded to death by zealous prosecutors fulfilling a copyright maximalist agenda.
However, as he rightly points out, bad as some of these are, they aren't the biggest threats to efforts to introduce some balance to copyright and to opening things up generally. There's another possibility, arguably worse than those listed above, and one that we've only just discovered exists:
The content industry continues to pursue intermediaries by attempting to obtain blocking orders against file-sharing sites in a strategy that has not proven to be effective in the slightest.
Some academic publishers continue to wage a secret war against open access.
Apple continues to operate on a closed garden model where interoperability is a dream.
The TPP is shaping up as a maximalist treaty that could criminalise non-commercial infringement.
The domain name system has become vulnerable to seizures by content owners.
Business models still need to change
With privacy tools compromised, with security protocols riddled with backdoors, with the TOR network left vulnerable, and with reports that the very basic infrastructure of the Web might be subject to indiscriminate surveillance, it would be easy for US legislators to pass a law that would turn all of the security apparatus into a giant copyright enforcement machine.
That's a horribly plausible possibility; after all, time and again the copyright industry has shown itself adept at appropriating the state's legal and enforcement machinery for its own selfish purposes. Although we should rightly celebrate all that has been achieved recently in the field of copyright, as Guadamuz notes, we must also make the danger he warns against yet another reason for dismantling the NSA's total surveillance system.