Lawrence Lessig: "wetten op auteursrecht zijn achterhaald"

Co-creator Creative Commons stelt nieuw boek voor

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De Amerikaanse professor rechten Lawrence Lessig (Stanford University) en co-creator van de Creative Commons licenties stelt in zijn nieuwe boek "Remix"  dat de huidige auteurswetten fel achterop hinken op de ontwikkelingen inzake digitale technologie en pleit voor een aantal veranderingen.

In een recent artikel in The Wall Street Journal vat Lessig zijn pleidooi samen. Hij begint met een eenvoudig, alledaags voorbeeld:

In early February 2007, Stephanie Lenz's 13-month-old son started dancing. Pushing a walker across her kitchen floor, Holden Lenz started moving to the distinctive beat of a song by Prince, "Let's Go Crazy." [...]

Ms. Lenz wanted her mother to see the film. But you can't easily email a movie. So she did what any citizen of the 21st century would do: She uploaded the file to YouTube and sent her relatives and friends the link. They watched the video scores of times. It was a perfect YouTube moment: a community of laughs around a homemade video, readily shared with anyone who wanted to watch.

Sometime over the next four months, however, someone from Universal Music Group also watched Holden dance. Universal manages the copyrights of Prince. It fired off a letter to YouTube demanding that it remove the unauthorized "performance" of Prince's music. YouTube, to avoid liability itself, complied.

This sort of thing happens all the time today. Companies like YouTube are deluged with demands to remove material from their systems. No doubt a significant portion of those demands are fair and justified. Universal's demand, however, was not. The quality of the recording was terrible. No one would download Ms. Lenz's video to avoid paying Prince for his music. There was no plausible way in which Prince or Universal was being harmed by Holden Lenz.

Lessig stelt dat aanpassingen aan de wetten op het auteursrecht zowel in het voordeel van de auteur als van de gebruiker kunnen zijn: "We could craft copyright law to encourage a wide range of both professional and amateur creativity, without threatening Prince's profits. We could reject the notion that Internet culture must oppose profit, or that profit must destroy Internet culture. But real change will be necessary if this is to be our future -- changes in law, and changes in us."

Lessig maakt daarbij een vergelijking met de opkomst van de platenspelers begin 1900, door vele artiesten vervloekt als "infernal machines" omdat ze dachten dat er nooit meer live zou worden gezongen:

In 1906, for example, perhaps America's then most famous musician, John Phillip Sousa, warned Congress about the inevitable loss that the spread of these "infernal machines" -- the record player -- would cause. As he described it:

"When I was a front of every house in the summer evenings you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or the old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal chord left. The vocal chords will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."
Volgens Lessig zorgt het voor sommigen "infernale" internet daarentegen net voor een nieuwe revolutie in creativiteit:
A new generation of "infernal machines" has now reversed this trend. New technology is restoring the "vocal chords" of millions. Wikipedia is a text version of this amateur creativity. Much of YouTube is the video version. A new generation has been inspired to create in a way our generation could not imagine. And tens of thousands, maybe millions, of "young people" again get together to sing "the songs of the day or the old songs" using this technology. Not on corner streets, or in parks near their homes. But on platforms like YouTube, or MySpace, with others spread across the world, whom they never met, or never even spoke to, but whose creativity has inspired them to create in return.

De auteur stelt dat alleen al deze vijf veranderingen voor een wereld van verschil kunnen zorgen:

Deregulate amateur remix: We need to restore a copyright law that leaves "amateur creativity" free from regulation. Before the 20th century, this culture flourished. The 21st century could see its return. Digital technologies have democratized the ability to create and re-create the culture around us. Where the creativity is an amateur remix, the law should leave it alone. It should deregulate amateur remix.

What happens when others profit from this creativity? Then a line has been crossed, and the remixed artists plainly ought to be paid -- at least where payment is feasible. If a parent has remixed photos of his kid with a song by Gilberto Gil (as I have, many times), then when YouTube makes the amateur remix publicly available, some compensation to Mr. Gil is appropriate -- just as, for example, when a community playhouse lets neighbors put on a performance consisting of a series of songs sung by neighbors, the public performance of those songs triggers a copyright obligation (usually covered by a blanket license issued to the community playhouse). There are plenty of models within the copyright law for assuring that payment. We need to be as creative as our kids in finding a model that works.

Deregulate "the copy": Copyright law is triggered every time there is a copy. In the digital age, where every use of a creative work produces a "copy," that makes as much sense as regulating breathing. The law should also give up its obsession with "the copy," and focus instead on uses -- like public distributions of copyrighted work -- that connect directly to the economic incentive copyright law was intended to foster. Simplify: If copyright regulation were limited to large film studios and record companies, its complexity and inefficiency would be unfortunate, though not terribly significant. But when copyright law purports to regulate everyone with a computer, there is a special obligation to make sure this regulation is clear. It is not clear now. Tax-code complexity regulating income is bad enough; tax-code complexity regulating speech is a First Amendment nightmare.

Restore efficiency: Copyright is the most inefficient property system known to man. Now that technology makes it trivial, we should return to the system of our framers requiring at least that domestic copyright owners maintain their copyright after an automatic, 14-year initial term. It should be clear who owns what, and if it isn't, the owners should bear the burden of making it clear.

Decriminalize Gen-X: The war on peer-to-peer file-sharing is a failure. After a decade of fighting, the law has neither slowed file sharing, nor compensated artists. We should sue not kids, but for peace, and build upon a host of proposals that would assure that artists get paid for their work, without trying to stop "sharing."

"Remix" van Lawrence Lessig wordt op 16 oktober uitgebracht bij Penguin Press.De auteur houdt ook een blog bij. Meer info over Creative Commons vind je op

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