Act for you rights – or lose them!

One of the greatest hinders to access and reuse of cultural material lies in the long terms of protection. The way in which copyright law works today is that it automatically protects (almost) all forms of cultural production (mainly) for a period of the life of the author plus 70 years. The effect of this is that nothing produced in my lifetime will be free in my lifetime.

This extension of the time of copyright is a major shift in the original idea of the bargain of copyright. The bargain was that the creator receives a limited monopoly and in return society will eventually receive the products of his or her work.  Today the bargain is that the creator is protected and then his or her heirs take over the monopoly. This results in the situation where the children or grandchildren of the creator have the exclusive rights to the work.

My criticism is that the grandchildren of the creator should not have better rights to the work just because they have a genetic link to the author.

One area where the term of protection has remained shorter is the time span under which sound recordings are protected. But now the argument is why should sound recordings be discriminated against? Instead of arguing that the terms of protection are too long.

We all now have a chance to send a message and prevent this progress. Check out this attempt from the Open Rights Group to prevent this development. Read! And work for your rights.

The disastrous proposal to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings to 70 years is back on the European Council’s agenda.

There is a chance to stop this. You can help by writing to your MEPs now to tell them about your concerns, and ask them to make sure the Directive gets proper scrutiny from the European Parliament.

The economic evidence is stacked against the proposal. It will result in large parts of our cultural history being locked up. And it will benefit only a small number of artists and businesses. Leading IP professors, the UK government’s ‘Gowers¬† Review’ of IP, and independent analysts commissioned by the EU have all said that extending the copyright term is unwise. You can read more about the evidence here.

You can help to make sure European decision makers look again at this damaging proposal by writing to your MEP now.

My personal balkanization

In 1995 the term daily me began to be bandied about by some writers and thinkers, Nicholas Negroponte for example discussed the concept in his book Being Digital. The term’s democratic and social implications was developed in Cass Sunstein‘s book Republic.com (2001). In this book (and followed up with Republic 2.0 in 2007) he argued that …the Internet may weaken democracy because it allows citizens to isolate themselves within groups that share their own views and experiences, and thus cut themselves off from any information that might challenge their beliefs… (Wikipedia). This process is sometimes known as cyberbalkanization but I feel the latter is a badly chosen term since it implies the need for cyber, which is not necessary.

No matter what term you prefer it is obvious that the daily-me phenomenon can be easily achieved with digital technology. Yesterday I took another step in my personal balkanization.

Already in my work the main part of my reading and writing is based on mainly non-Swedish sources and publications. The blogs I track track across the Internet are mainly non-local, defined by subject rather than geography. For lesuire I mainly read foreign magazines and books. I rarely read newspapers (not even online), seldom watch television (but plenty of DVDs) and since I travel around Sweden a great deal I tend to miss local events.

Together this leads to a negative (or positive – depends on your perspective) spiral and increased disinterest in local affairs.

Yesterday I took another step in my own personal balkanization by buying an Argon Internet radio. I was actually very skeptical to this but after I quick and easy install I now can listen to live radio from anywhere in the world (within the confines of language). My presets include English, American, Spanish, Maltese and Australian stations.

The little radio is perfect in my kitchen and connects easily to my wifi. In addition to this it actually does work as a “normal, old-fashioned” radio, which was a large factor in convincing me to chose this model but I have not felt the need to use it.

The argon even connects nicely to the music on my computer and to my personal selection of radio stations I chose on the radio website. My only gripe so far is that I have not managed to get the podcasts working but I guess I will have to read the manual.

So now it is even easier for me to ignore what is going on around me and focus on the stuff I like. This is becoming more than a daily me or a balkanization but it is definitaly a step in the fragmentization of a society. But at this stage I would like to quote Margaret Thatcher (I never thought that would happen) “Society does not exist“. Thatcher used this provocative statement to promote extreme individualism. But I would like to use this to remind us that “society” is a social construct which has no meaning outside that which we consciously and unconsciously agree to fill it with. But the short sharp Thatcherite version sounds better.