Copyright across the Atlantic ...

What interesting times we live in as creative people.  Here in the UK the government are trying to reduce the effectiveness of copyright by trying to introduce less effective legislation and methods of licensing that don't look after the interests of creative professionals (pause for breath  - those of you needing an inhaler, please use now) while over the side of the pond we have a media battle over the implications of PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) and SOPA Stop Online Piracy Act).

I like the idea of what PIPA and SOPA are trying to do but it seems to have gotten lost in the political spin.  Basically they want to protect Intellectual Property ... but I feel that it's important to know that the money pushing this forward has come mainly from the music and film industry.  I haven't seen much hype about the abuse of photography, paintings or the written word.

The waters surrounding the issue have been muddied to the degree that the bills may well fail as politicians seem to be worrying more about staying in power rather than doing the right thing.  One of the issues being raised is that the bills will affect the citizens' freedom of speech over the internet.  I fail to see how these acts could do that as you can still say what you want to say about anything you want (as long as you don't breach libel laws) but you just don't put links to any pirated media alongside the article.

Here in the UK, the reason for changing the copyright legislation is clear.  Big business and educational establishments want to be able to use intellectual property without having to pay for it or without having to pay an appropriate price for using it.

There have been comments stating that the copyright laws are too tight.  Copyright is copyright - it is automatic and it is there to serve a purpose: to stop creative works being abused.  As such it achieves its aims. 

I haven't seen any form of analysis to estimate how much is lost annually in earnings by creative people (musicians, poets, writers, photographers, artists, film makers etc).  What the UK legal system DOES need is a quicker, cost effective way of bringing copyright cases to the courts.

The copyright legislation as such in the UK is fine but it does need to start taking account of 'moral rights' that are granted us by both International & Europrean Human Rights legislation:

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 27 (2) states:

1.  Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

2.  Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Note also that a recent UK court ruling (20thC Fox vs 'Newsbin2') established that -

Copyrights are property rights protected by Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights, as also expressed in Article 1 of the First Protocol of the Human Rights Act 1998;

piracy of copyright work is a breach of the copyright holder's human rights;

the copyright holder is therefore entitled to legal redress;

and, because 'so far as possible, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with human rights', legislation drafted and enacted subsequent to the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998 must also be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with human rights.
I have no doubt in my mind that Hargreaves was hired to present a particular point of view rather than a balanced review of the UK's copyright laws.
So what's the common donimator in both of these big scale efforts accross the pond?  Money!  Both of these nations are trying to achieve opposite aims, the politicans are are treading carefully around the voters and the creative communities are sat waiting wondering what's going to happen next.
Somewhere in Eutopia someone's sat there thinking, 'Imagine what they could have done globally if they'd pooled their resources and involved other countries and came up with a set of global legislation to protect artists' rights?'  Let's face it - it could be done with the amount of money that's probably changed hands in the corridors of power.
In the mean time...
All creative people that use the internet MUST take steps to protect their intellectual property.  You'll find free help on the basics on RespectIP and Creativity Resources brought to you by Wolf Photography ;)
All the best

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