So, while BigCo walled gardeners such as Apple and Amazon continue to convert things that could be owned in the physical world (starting with music and books) into what can only be licensed in the virtual one, the regulatory framework around the Internet is ratcheting in an ever more restrictive direction, partly at the behest of regulatory captors such as the phone, cable and content companies (all getting more and more vertically integrated), and partly at the behest of countries that want the UN and the ITU to help them restrict Net usage inside their borders. The latter is less about licensing than about pure politics, but pure politics is customarily driven by big businesses looking for protection or easement. Both are at variance with the free and open marketplace the Net opened up in the first place.
What do you think of, when you think of copyright? A tool to recognise and reward artists? Or a tool to punish and withhold material?
For me the answer should clearly be the first. But all too often, in the digital age, it is seen as the second.
“Let us make sure that in the future music copyright will no longer be a right to intellectual property but a right to creative income. You always have permission, provided that you pay a reasonable fee afterwards. What we need is play now and pay later.”
efore answering this question, I should first explain, of course, who I am, because when you hear a message, it is always a good idea to realise who the messenger is. I am a lawyer specialised in copyright and active in the creative industries. In other words, I earn my money with copyright. I breathe copyright. I work for large organizations in the field of music, books and films that earn their money by exploiting copyright. So I am a lawyer working for the majors and I fully understand the side of the big earners in the world of copyright. So tell me, do you expect me to give you an objective answer to the question whether copyright is the devil, what do you think? Am I objective or not?
And what’s the excuse from those in the music industry that invoke copyright? That they are on the side of the creative, because it is the interests of the poor musician that is promoted by all collecting societies, music watchdogs such as BREIN, publishers and record companies. That sounds good, in fact it sounds almost holy, but it is bullshit. All these organizations are acting primarily in their own interests. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that. As you might gather, I also act in my own best interests, as everybody in this room does. But it is important to get the facts clear here today. These representatives act in their own interests, not in the best interests of the composer or artist or the consumer for that matter. So copyright is not about protecting creativity but about collecting money. That´s why they are called collecting societies.
So what happened here? By invoking copyright, these parties have succeeded in obstructing developments in digital music exploitation in this way for years now. For this reason, music consumption has gone its own way. People thought: if we cannot do it legal, let’s do it illegal. And this is how Napster, Kazaa, Mininova, and Piratebay were created and apparently, this exploitation satisfied a need that the music industry failed to respond to. And as a result, the big wigs in the record industry and the societies of this world sit with their fat asses on a big pile of content while this content is creeping outward under their own weight, becomes fluid and is dispersed all over the place beneath them. But it is to no avail to the industry itself.
Has copyright been an exclusive property right until now? I propose that we replace it with the right to a creative income. The creative who communicates his work to the public or reproduces it must be paid for it, but there will be a different point of departure. Let’s not longer require from all parties to ask for prior permission, but make it possible to just exploit music and pay a fee for that afterwards.
What should we agree about?
· From now on, we will prohibit the industry from charging minimum fees.
· Copyrights will only be paid as long as revenues allow it and always afterwards.
· Allow new initiatives a starting-up period.
· Use a royalty or a subscription model.
· Award initiatives like Spotify the Nobel Prize.
Let’s wrap it up. The current copyright system is ok in most cases, but the underlying idea does not work for digital music. Remember that copyright is not there to protect the creative but to earn a creative income. It turns out that a copyright system based on exclusive rights and prior permission is not effective at all on the Internet.