Mon, 14 December 2009
In 1841 Thomas Babington Macaulay observed that “it is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.”
In his new book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, highly regarded copyright lawyer Bill Patry concurs with Macaulay, arguing that ‘copyright should last only as long as is necessary to ensure that works that would not have been created but for the incentive of copyright are created.’
The book at once demonstrates how copyright is a utilitarian government program–not a property or moral right, and deplores the manner in which debate has deteriorated into a battle between oversimplified metaphors; language which demonizes everyone involved – pirates and orphans alike. This has led to bad business and bad policy decisions. "Unless we recognize that the debates over copyright are debates over business models, says Patry, we will never be able to make the correct business and policy decisions
A former copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, policy adviser to the Register of Copyright, law professor and author of the definitive Patry on Copyright, the man, currently copyright counsel to Google, is a centrist and advocate of balanced copyright laws, and, perhaps most significantly, the owner of a kickin’ pair of running shoes
Moral Panic concludes with a call not for strong or weak copyright laws but more effective ones, designed to maximize the creation of new works and learning, and minimize obstacles which prevent others from accessing and building upon them.
Listen here as Patry, speaking as a concerned, informed citizen, not as a Google employee, works his way out from Macaulay’s lucidity, a sampling of which I cite to start off our conversation:
Thu, 10 December 2009
Published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables is the first in a series of bestselling novels by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Although often dark and complex, and at times racy, the ‘Anne’ novels are today considered by most to be children’s books. Inspired by similar girls’ stories of the time, and her own childhood experiences in rural Prince Edward Island, Montgomery’s writing has affected generations of women around the world, perhaps none more so than another Canadian, novelist Jane Urquhart, who has just written a biography of Lucy Maud as part of Penguin’s
Extraordinary Canadians series. We met recently to talk about the vast disconnect between the work and the woman; depression, lesbianism and gaiety; about place, truth and memory, narrative and culture, confidence and role models.
Please listen here:
Sun, 6 December 2009
Copyright activist, speaker, teacher (how about ’speacher’…or ’spreacher’), columnist, science fiction novelist, short story writer, co-editor of Boing Boing, and the very manifestation of articulate dynamism, Cory Doctorow was in town recently to promote his novel Little Brother (free download here), a fast paced, current-day 1984-like polemic calling for teens to subvert security measures, especially those used by governments that claim to "defend my freedom by tearing up the Bill of Rights.”
As Austin Grossman puts it in the New York Times:
MY favorite thing about “Little Brother” is that every page is charged with an authentic sense of the personal and ethical need for a better relationship to information technology, a visceral sense that one’s continued dignity and independence depend on it: “My technology was working for me, serving me, protecting me. It wasn’t spying on me. This is why I loved technology: if you used it right, it could give you power and privacy…Little Brother argues that unless you’re passably technically literate, you’re not fully in command of those constitutionally guaranteed freedoms — that in fact it’s your patriotic duty as an American to be a little more nerdy."
I’m clearly not nerdy enough… incarcerated I am in fact by technological illiteracy…incapacitated too…neither machine I used to record my conversation with Cory worked for the full duration of our encounter…they did however capture enough, thankfully, to provide his engaging take on the future of the book, the seeds of its destruction…and mention of a guy with a lemon up his nose. Please listen here:
(For discussion of copyright, please watch this space over the coming days for my interview with the acknowledged giant in the field, Bill Patry).