Copyright madness

When it comes to copyright, the world simply seems to have gone insane.

The UK music industry thinks it loses £200 million each year to piracy. So the UK government is now trying to push through a new set of regulations that would cost £500 million to implement. Which not only does not meet the most basic of cost-benefit analyses, but also would force an estimated 40,000 people offline due to the additional costs that would be passed on to consumers.

Meanwhile, my ISP has promised to start to spy on everything that I download. I cannot recall agreeing to allow them to do this.

But copyright issues in music are old news; the new battle is in books. Book publishers have now realized that many avid readers are now e-book readers, with more to follow on the iPad — now they are beginning to jump into the copyright act. Using the same sorts of measurements that the music and movie industries use, they are claiming to lose $3 billion a year to online piracy. A more interesting analysis takes the same methodology and applies it to libraries, finding that American libraries “cost” the publishing industry nearly $1 trillion every year.

This, of course, demonstrates how silly the claims are. Once one takes into account that those who violate copyright by downloading music, books, or movies are also the industry’s biggest customers, expenditures like those being made in the UK are revealed for being complete farces — rather than protecting profits, it takes away the ability for customers to discover the material in the first place.

There are interesting and sane views out there. Go To Hellman outlines the benefits of library sharing of books. Cory Doctorow discusses the possibility of creating an intelligent copyright system, rather than a one-size-fits-all system that doesn’t work.

None of that intelligent thinking is likely to be finding its way into the Anti-Conterfeiting Trade Agreement, however. The public, of course, is not allowed in on the multilateral negotiations — but big business is. What is sure to emerge are a set of rules to make the demise of the pre-Internet model as painful as possible for consumers and new start-ups, rather than a set of rules that still make sense given the technology available.

And yes, almost all of this has happened during the first 31 days of 2010. And there is no sign that anybody will adopt a system that has any chance of working anytime soon.

(Image from 917press)

7 thoughts on “Copyright madness

  1. This story is even older news than you think. When public radio became popular the recording industry said “You can’t play music for free it will be the end of us!”. When cassette tapes became popular in the 80’s the recording industry said “You can’t let them copy music for free it will be the end of us!”.

    You are right though they copyright laws are rapidly becoming obsolete and they need to be changed. It is copyright holders vs pirates and the pirates are winning. Come on governments get with the winning team already.

  2. @Pez
    And when the record came out, the music industry (which was not yet a recording industry) was concerned that the record would replace the live band.

    It’s not the recording industry that’s insane, though you think they would have learned by now. If they can get the UK to spend £500 million on them, that’s fine (for them). What is completely insane is that the governments of the world are complicit in this, and allow their laws, treaties and courtrooms to be tools for these shenanigans, rather than things that ensure that disputes can be resolved fairly.

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