Toward a Read-Write Society

With the election over and Bill C-61 dying with the last Parliament, the government is once again looking at making changes to copyright law. In A Copyright Call to Arms published in the Globe and Mail this week, the authors call for consultation from all sides of this complex issue:

Ministers Clement and Moore have a singular opportunity to consult with Canadians to develop reforms that will be fair for both consumers and rightsholders and position Canada for success in the 21st century.

I’ve just finished reading Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy by Lawrence Lessig and it should be required reading for all politicians involved in re-making copyright policy.

Lessig shows the differences between Read-Only (RO) and Read-Write (RW) cultures and how RO came to dominate in the 20th Century, while RW has been around for as long as humans have communicated with each other. An RW culture emphasizes learning. Lessig’s view is balanced and he does not call for the abolition of copyright but mostly for the removal of copyright protection from non-commercial uses. He uses US law to make his points, but much of what he says is applicable to other Common Law jurisdictions.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of current copyright laws is that they are making criminals out of an entire generation:

But the real failure of this war [on copyright violation] is the effect that this massive regulation has had on the basic integrity of our kids. Our kids are “pirates”. We tell them this. They come to believe it. Like any human, they adjust the way they think in response to this charge. They come to like life as a “pirate”. That way of thinking then bleeds. Like the black marketers in Soviet Russia, our kids increasingly adjust their behavior to answer a simple question: How can I escape the law?

It’s time to stop this madness and help our children become better citizens, not line the pockets of a few multinational corporations. Non-commercial copyright infringement should not exist and our educators should be leading on this issue. We don’t need special rights just for educational institutions, we need to encourage RW creativity for lifelong learning.

For further reading, see my bookmarks on copyright.

5 Responses to “Toward a Read-Write Society”

  1. Harold Jarche

    I think I’ve seen every video with Larry that is available online. His style has improved over the years, but the substance has always been good. BTW, if you come to Sackville for the bloggers dinner next Friday, I’ll give you the book 🙂

  2. Jon Husband

    It’s a very good book. I am 2/3 of the way through it whilst here in Paris, and am taking it with me tomorrow to Marrakech to finish it off .. back to Vancouver on the 23rd ;-(


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