Hands off my copy, right?

July 19, 2010 by · 27 Comments 

It’s probably an exercise in futility to cross-post material here and on Quillblog, since I suspect the overlap in readership is close to 100%, but just in case, I’ll direct your attention to my latest QB post, where I gas on about copyright (it’s more interesting than it sounds, I promise). The post was prompted by an article in The Wall Street Journal that complained about how traditional copyright restrictions are too complicated and costly to endure in the digital age. That article was picked up by Richard Curtis, who extended its argument, saying that securing permission to reprint copyrighted material is “extremely tedious” and that the current copyright battles are “intolerable and will simply have to stop.”

You can probably guess where yr. humble correspondent comes down on this subject, but in case there’s any doubt, here’s the Quillblog money shot:

The rationale for [Curtis’s] conclusion seems to be that traditional copyright protections make the production of enhanced e-books too complicated, meaning that only “auteurs” who produce, write, edit, direct, and score their own material will be able to create them. The faulty assumption here is that just because a particular technology (i.e. the ability to “mash up” videos, text, music, etc. to produce enhanced e-books) exists, everyone should be able to exploit it without restriction. This is the new digital fundamentalism, and it is deleterious to the notion that artists deserve to be adequately compensated for their artistic output.

This “intolerable” controversy is particularly germane in Canada, where amendments to the Copyright Act are currently being considered by Parliament. Michael Geist, Cory Doctorow, and others have spoken out against the so-called “digital lock” provisions in the amended Act, arguing that these amendments place too many restrictions on the rights of consumers. So far, one of the only voices I’ve heard speak out in defence of creators‘ rights has been John Degen, literature officer for the Ontario Arts Council, who has been roundly excoriated for his trouble. I think it’s high time more people spoke on behalf of content creators. Without them, all those consumers’ rights the digital fundamentalists and evangelists crow about won’t mean a whole hell of a lot.