Friday, September 29, 2006

British Library, Council take on Creative Commons and DRM

Adam sez, "Counterpoint is a think tank, sponsored by the partially government-funded British Council. Today (29th Sept) they're publishing a Creative Commons-licensed ebook by Rosemary Bechler (Contributing Editor to openDemocracy) bringing together thoughts on new approaches to copyright and cultural commons. It's aimed at policy-makers without a background in copyright issues, so starts from the basics, introducing RMS, CC etc. but quickly brings lots of threads together in a fascinating way. A great read for smart politicians or journalists."
The first generation of Creative Commons is not the Utopian world of Romantic authentic exchange that Carlyle thought money had destroyed. But it draws on the same insight. It turns out that what makes for success is not whether money is exchanged or whether laws are challenged. What makes cultural commons thinking the basis of a gathering social movement worldwide, is the perception that it is the mutually enabling relationship that matters most. These licences make it easier to share. Those whose innovating energy have begun to transform the centre from the edge – who we might think of as the new authors – are people who have understood this. And they are also its beneficiaries.

Whether you look at a mature movement such as the open source software movement, or emergent groups, such as the free culture movement or the scientists’ movement for open publication, these people are intent on creating a domain of open cultural sharing, somewhere where all can be creative together. An Open Business40 project, too, has a quality that is hard to pin down, from the perspective either of law or of economics. It recognises that the same transaction could at one and the same time be a commodity, a gift and a public service – as long as the common culture, the enabling relationship, is intact.

At the same time, the British Library has published "Intellectual Property, a Balance: The British Library Manifesto" that is also very good, constituting a comprehensive set of reforms to British copyright law that would keep the BL in a position to go on being the guardian of UK culture.

I like this one quite a lot, but am skeptical of the clause on Digital Rights Management, which says that DRM should be allowed, provided that it doesn't undermine "fair dealing" (the UK equivalent of fair use). The problem is that DRM inevitably undermines fair dealing, since fair dealing includes exemptions for scholarship, criticism, parody, etc. There's no DRM software invented yet that can tell the difference between a pirate and a parodist -- indeed, sometimes it takes the Supreme Court or the Law Lords to state defintiively whether a work is a parody or just a ripoff. Can a DRM simulate the Supreme Court and figure out, a priori, whether they'd rule that this use was fair?

Libraries should be allowed to make copies of sound and film recordings to ensure they can be preserved for posterity in the future.

Currently the law does not permit copying of sound and film items for preservation. Without the right to make copies, the UK is losing a large part of its recorded culture.

■ The British Library Sound Archive is one of the largest archives of music in the world with over a million discs, 185,000 tapes and holdings of every other medium upon which sound can be recorded. ■ As the Library is not able to make copies of items, many original audio and film formats we hold are becoming increasingly more fragile and require the urgent creation of a preservation surrogates or face irretrievable decay.

We recommend that copying for preservation purposes is extended to all copyrightable works as is the case in many other countries.

Link to Counterpoint report,Link to British Library report

(Thanks, Adam and others!)

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