Copyright in the Digital Age

Still the bedrock of creativity and the creative industries

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●     New EU Copyright Act takes another step

●     Filesharing highlights collision of free speech and copyright

●     Introduction to Collective Licensing seminars

●     Brexit and the realpolitik of trade agreements

●     Three post graduate bursaries in copyright

●     Orphan Works Database given user approval

●     Seven-year-olds given copyright lessons to curb online piracy

●     Why Europe’s New Copyright Proposals Are Bad News for the Internet

●     ‘EU copyright legislation will not change in UK after Brexit’ argues Kaye

●     EU copyright reform proposals “sensible” say publishers

●     Publishers stress importance of Robust Copyright Regime Post Brexit

●     Congratulations to Dr. Aislinn O’Connell

●     Fit for Change? Copyright for Publishers in the Digital Age – Abstract/Intro

●     Copyright thesis – Chapter 1 Literature Review

●     Copyright thesis Chapter 2 – A Historical investigation of copyright

●     Copyright Thesis Chapter 3 – Legal Investigation

●     Copyright thesis Chapter 4 – Blocking initiatives

●     Copyright thesis Chapter 5 – Copyright and the UK Economy

●     Copyright thesis Chapter 6 – The Hargreaves Exceptions

●     Copyright thesis Chapter 7 – Alternative approaches

●     Copyright thesis – Conclusions

●     Index, List of Abbreviations, Tables of Cases & Legislation, Bibliography, Appendices 1&2

●     World Book and Copyright Day

●     EU’s new action plan for copyright and digital platforms

●     Google News Leaves Spain

●     Exceptions impact on business: air your views on 20 October 2014

●     Last Copyright Exceptions Come Into Force Today

●     Copyright and the UK Economy

●     Copyright Briefing – July 14

●     Culture of the Public Domain – A Good Thing?

●     An Employment Focus on the Creative Industries

●     Copyright exceptions back on track

●     Exceptions Update

●     LBF14 – Day 2

●     LBF14 – Day 1

●     New Director for Copyright and Enforcement Speaks

●     Copyright and the Future of Global Content Industries

●     Commons Committee warns against diluting IP rights

●     CLSG Launch Report: Streamlining Copyright Licensing for the Digital Age

●     IPso FACTo debate at Stationers Company

●     Publishers Launch Global Exchange on Copyright

●     Funding given to kick-start Copyright Hub

●     IPO thoughts on copyright and the economic effects of parody

●     Modernising copyright – February 2013

●     Stationers and UCL in joint copyright research initiative for communications and content industries

●     Government publishes proposals for changes to UK copyright

●     Stationers offer bursary to copyright research student

●     Hooper recommends UK Copyright Hub

●     Copyright adds extra £3 billion to national accounts

●     Hargreaves warned on damaging UK creative industries

On June 25th 2013, in the Cruciform building in UCL, 200 people (including this author) attended the fifth annual Sir Hugh Laddie lecture, hosted by the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law at UCL. This year’s speaker was Professor Hugh Hansen, director of Fordham Intellectual Property Institute – well known to any IP buff as the home of the highlight of any IP calendar – the Fordham IP conference.

His lecture – answering the question “Culture of the Public Domain – is it a good idea?” seemed at first glance to be a succinct one. After some reminiscing on the man for whom the lecture was held, Professor Hansen asked his central question – Is the culture of the Public Domain a good idea? – and answered it. No, he stated very firmly, it is not a good idea.

Luckily for those of us attending, he did elaborate further upon this statement. Hansen elaborated on the two basic groups of actors in the copyright world –  firstly the ‘traditionalists’, composed mostly of a small group of copyright attorneys and academics, who feel called to copyright, and hold a natural law view of copyright: that it exists for the protection of investment and the benefit of creators and the public. In this camp, the “Public Domain” is the area where copyright goes to die, after rights expire, and it is no good thing. The second group he introduced is that of copyright ‘atheists and agnostics’, composed mostly of young academics and professionals in the tech side, who moved into copyright because it was interfering with their full and free use of technology. This groups identifies more closely with users and derivative creators, rather than original or new creators, and views copyright as a problem to be overcome, not the solution to protecting creative works. Hansen argued that this group was ever-growing, and newly-minted Atheists & Agnostics who then go on to clerk for judges may be the driving force behind judges who do not know much about copyright – their being steeped in the culture of the public domain.

Skipping neatly through the justifications for the culture of the public domain – that copyright incentivises creation, that it is a monopoly, a limited monopoly, or a legal monopoly, and that copyright is not a property right – Hansen tore them all down, using ideas framed within the preamble of the American Constitution, Lockean conceptions of property rights, the Magna Carta, and a healthy dose of common sense. He then moved on to enumerate the drawbacks of the culture of the public domain – fewer new or original works and a greater number of derivative works, and finally his problems with the culture of the public domain – that is a culture of self-absorption, which adversely affects moral values and encourages a lack of sensitivity towards others, even to the extent of demonising victims. Hansen finished up with a statement that was not uncontroversial, positing that stating that one is pro-Public Domain Culture is akin to saying one is actively anti-copyright.

While this author would not agree entirely with all of Hansen’s points – being of the opinion that the use of the term ‘Public Domain’ can be misleading and confusing, as well as taking issue with the painting of copyright atheists and agnostics as demons against the old traditionalists’ angelic (read: stubborn) adherence to old practices – there’s certainly no way that she could deny that the lecture was both interesting and stimulating, even as far as the heated debate during the question session immediately following the lecture. Certainly, there was substantial food for thought delivered in a way which was accessible to those inside and outside the minutiae of IP discussions. The 2015 Sir Hugh Laddie Lecture will have big shoes to fill.

© Copyright in the Digital Age