Archive for May, 2008

Fixing some things about copyright.

Posted in copyright, freedom, ifpi, riaa with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2008 by qplqyer

As I was strolling on the net today, I came across a news article that described how the Dutch minister of culture wanted to regulate the taxes that are levied on blank media on an European scale.

This got me thinking about some intellectual monopolies again, hence this post.

First of all, I would like to start by saying that these taxes should of course be abolished. Whilst I do not know how the situation in other countries is, in my country this tax is only possible because there is a clause in the law that states that artists can be renumerated when someone makes a copy for personal use. Now, this is a completely idiotic clause since this has nothing to do with downloading music illegally, or copying music illegally, but only with copying a CD that you have legitimately bought. Now, I honestly can not come up with any good reason as to why you should have to pay an artist when you just want to make sure that the CD you bought does not get scratched, does not get stolen from your car, etc. If I buy a CD, well then I want to be able to do with this CD whatever I want, as long as the copies I make or the music I play is only meant for use in a circle of close friends (maybe excluding copies there) and relatives. If such a tax is meant to compensate for illegal copying and downloading, well then since everyone is paying a tax for it, the copying and downloading should be made legal. Hence, this section of the law obviously needs to be redrafted to either remove this tax immediately and let people copy their legally obtained CDs and other works freely, or the law should be made into a real tax for illegal downloading and copying and this downloading and copying should be made legal. You cannot write in the law that it is meant to compensate for one thing (which does not need compensation) and then support the law by saying that it is used to compensate for another!

Still, there is another problem with these taxes. No one knows exactly what is being copied. So what is being done? The taxes get transferred to an obscure organisation of which no one knows exactly who they represent and based on some magic calculation they determine how much of the copying shares you get. That is truly outrageous, as it is a system that makes the richer just richer and the poorer just poorer. Wouldn’t it be better to use this tax to subsidize younger artists by building rehearsal rooms, by subsidizing theater and all those other art forms that really need to be subsidized as they cannot survive otherwise?

Then I have a last proposal that should fix some of the problems in copyright (especially for music). In Europe, most countries have some private organisation that “protects” the rights of the artist. However, these are all based on the idea that an artist should pay them money and transfer their copyrights to them. Now, copyrights are obviously worth money, so it seems silly to have to pay a fee as an artist to such an organisation. Furthermore, the fact that the copyright gets fully transferred is very bad for fans and “consumers” (ugly word, it seems to establish that people are sheep that should do nothing than consume whatever happens to grow on the plains).

A better system would be one in which it is prohibited that such exclusive deals can happen. In a world with such a legislation, many different companies could “sell” licenses for doing something with a certain copyright. This reflects how most trading is done nowadays anyhow. Consider for example shops. Shops have deals with producers for selling some of their products, e.g. many different companies sell products of the coca-cola company. The shops then compete with each other by offering lower prices for products, or by giving extra’s to their shoppers and so on and so on. This competition benefits “consumers” as it makes sure that the prices are not being kept virtually high.

This system would work for music as well. If one wants to organise a party, now, in my country at least, he has to pay a huge fine, based on all kinds of things that have nothing to do with the music such as the price of a beer etc., to the only corporation (technically it is a not-for-profit organisation, but that is hardly the true case) that has the right to exploit intellectual monopolies. If however there could be many different companies that can buy the same rights to license music for all kinds of uses, then there could be competition and such absurd calculations could not exist as one would soon be priced out of the market by a smarter competitor.

Hence, such a system would benefit the ordinary person, but also the artists, as they can sell licenses (and set their prices) to as many organisations as they please and hence can probably generate more income.

Artists have traditionally always been screwed over when rights were involved, which is what has led to the problems we face today (if artists would just have refused to give up all their rights to record companies or to corporations like SABAM,BUMA/STEMRA instead of rolling over on their backs and giving them money and their rights, which are also worth a lot of money, it would not be such a big mess). A change as proposed here, where it is disallowed to sell the full rights to a work will obviously be strongly opposed by many, but as the arguments I have laid out have shown, it is only beneficial for both the artist and the “consumer”. And in my opinion these are the persons that matter most.

Thank you for your attention. I hope that anyone reading this will agree and start promoting this idea on his own, so that it one day will be caught up upon by politicians and hopefully a change for the better can be implemented.

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