Thursday, September 14, 2006

Copyright, copywrong

Bruce Simpson over at Aardvark taises the question of copyright in New Zealand - with the example that our laws effectively make most uses of an iPod illegal, though I've not seen that tested in court so far.

Which prompts me to think about what we really should have in our copyright law.

The copyright laws in NZ are outdated amd need revision - but they should not follow the draconian rules imposed in the US under the DMCA, which effectively criminalises even knowing how to defeat DRM (see the case of Dmitry Sklyarov, arrested and held in a US jail for knowing how to view an Adobe e-book on a different computer).

We need a copyright law that gives reasonable protection to rights owners for a reasonable period - not the 95 years voted for by US congress members who were and are richly paid off by the members of the RIAA and MPAA.

We need a copyright law that grants exemptions for fair use, including an absolute right to make and market mashups and parodies, an absolute right to make copies for backup and to listen or watch on other devices in their own homes, an absolute right of first sale, meaning you can legally sell anything you have bought, even if it pretends be only a licence to use, and an absolute right to investigate, explore, study, dis-assemble, change, tinker with and break any computer device or code that comes into your posession.

We need a copyright law that requires any company applying DRM techniques to its products to provide permanent and irrevocable unlock keys to libraries and educational institutions.

We need a copyright law that recognises copyright as a time limited licence to exploit, that rejects attempts to extend the length of copyrights and recognises that all creative achievemnent should end up at the end of the copyright period in the public domain.

All of this would give us a fair and reasonable copyright system, and would not breach our obligations under the abysmally drafted TRIPS agreements at the WTO.

We also need to beware of Americans bearing gifts in the form of Free Trade Agreements, which are all too often used as a way to impose unwanted American regulations on citizens of other countries, and in particular to force other countries to pass the same draconian copyright laws as the DMCA. You can watch this process happening right now in Canberra. It makes you wonder who really governs Australia - the Federal Government in Canberra or the Office of the US Trade Representative.

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