In a speech by Neelie Kroes in Avignon the Commissioner for Information Society policy suggests that copyright is badly adapted to the digital environment, that convergence of media will bring much new creativity to the world and that audiences and artists are increasingly annoyed with intermediaries. She says (my emphasis)

Will th[e] 12 million-strong [Europeana] collection of books, pictures, maps, music pieces and videos stall because copyright gets in the way? I hope not. But when it comes to 20th century materials, even to digitise and publish orphan works and out-of-distribution works, we have a large problem indeed. Europeana could be condemned to be a niche player rather than a world leader if it cannot be granted licenses and share the full catalogue of written and audio-visual material held in our cultural institutions. And it will be frustrated in that ambition if it cannot team up with commercial partners on terms that are consistent with public policy and with the interests of right-holders. And all sorts of other possible initiatives, public and private, will also be frustrated.

There is no particular novelty in wanting further European harmonisation of copyright law and enforcement. The Commission has been discussing the problem of orphan works and out-of-print works for many years. Kennisland’s Paul Keller is right in that Kroes appears extra revolutionary now, but I still see little concrete progress from the Reding-era reports on, say, the Europeana project. In July 2008, Reding warned that ”If we do not reform our European copyright rules on orphan works and libraries swiftly, digitization and the development of attractive content offers will not take place in Europe[.]” The 2008 Model Agreements don’t seem to be going anywhere though, and I know that many libraries are digitising their vast archives of newspapers (look at this newspaper from Luxemburg 1860 headed by a list of train departures for historic news reporting context) without a proper legal basis. One representative of a national library tells me they have 20 years worth of digitised articles from French and German 20th century newspapers and subsequently are at a constant risk of massively multiplayer lawsuits.

Now, Kroes talks about ”respect for rightsholders” and ”remuneration for artists” at the same time. But if she seriously means that intermediaries have been given too large a role in the shaping of copyright, and still means to encourage remuneration of artists by means of government intervention, she must be aiming for an extended collective license with an added exception in the copyright law, alike the Swedish library renumeration or public lending right (expection in URL 42 a§ and 42d§ I think but would actually be grateful if someone explained this further to me). Not entirely dissimilar to the flatrate discussions we held at FCForum 2010 one and a half weeks ago, the Kroes vision entails a) policy intervention to secure funding for creativity and b) a renumeration that bypasses the rights owners and goes straight to the sources of culture – artists and what have you. What surprises me is that neither FCForum nor Neelie Kroes appear to want to shake the idea that a non-rights-based solution must be related to the rights it’s not based on. This makes absolutely no sense.

In a comment to the second last post, Mikael von Knorring promoted the Leftist Party proposal for a digitalt bibliotek, and extension of the current Swedish solution for public libraries to an online environment. Since the solution is basically advocated by a political party intent on plan economy, presumably it makes no difference to the Leftist party the problems with hindering market development and business model innovation I addressed above. However, one feature of the Swedish library system that, in my opinion, would bring higher credibility to, say, the Brazilian levy proposal, is that no author gets compensated more than up to the amount that constitutes an average annual wage. If a levy system is meant to help people work full time with their creative efforts, renumerating the artists or authors directly, and up to an amount of money that is considered financially comfortable with respect to the majority of the population, makes more sense than setting up a system that chunks money into rights owning organisations such as the existing media conglomerates.

Note that one of the links on Europeana cited above says: asking member states to pay more [to Europeana] beyond the startup costs is problematic and undependable, further confirming my suspicion that the public institutions that disingenuously sacrifice, say, the telecom market neutrality and civil liberties and rights in fact don’t want to pay for copies of culture either. See also Internautas reports on levy reimbursements. When will the discussion shift to non-rights based solutions? Why hasn’t it already? I am frustrated.

  1. november 10, 2010 kl. 14:31

    Thanks for the comments! I suppose you don’t believe file sharing is ”hindering market development and business model innovation”. Why would file sharing using a public digital library cause those kind of effects? Do you consider the ordinary libraries to hinder innovation as well?

    I’d say it’s the other way around: the digital libraries we propose would make it a lot easier for artists and small record companies to experiment with marketing strategies and so on. The Left Party doesn’t care much for planned economies, and this proposal is in line with that: it aims at creating better economic conditions for people doing film & music, not planning band economy from above.

    There’s also a strategic point to be made here: A lot of the innovation we see today has been forced into DRM schemes by the media corporations. That’s what’s stopping innovation and freedom today. Digital libraries is a way to establish free solutions – as in beer and as in freedom – as the practice to beat.

  2. teirdez
    november 10, 2010 kl. 15:57

    Peer-to-peer interaction is not really inside the economic system and therefore can’t really be seen as interacting with business models at large. It’s a social construct, not an economic construct. It’s a good objection, actually. Having dinner with friends at one’s house does not interact with the market of restaurants – there is not even competition between house meals and restaurants because they’re completely disconnected – I guess I take it for granted that peer-to-peer and business models for the creative industries have a similar relation which is, given the current political debate climate, perhaps uncareful.

    I don’t think that the public digital library, or that libraries at large, hinder innovation, but putting up specialised mandatory revenue streams do risk deincentivising potential subscribers to voluntary revenue stream models from signing up to them. I see a clear distinction between the funding coming from an earmarked payment or from a general tax, though.

    The Left Party proposal is, to my understanding, the exact same model as for the Swedish biblioteksersättning (public lending right) which all in all is not so bad – the money that is put into the revenue stream is not actually collected /for/ the revenue stream but a general tax that is later distributed where society feels it makes most use of itself. That is different from, say, the flatrate solution or extended collective license solution in which it is supposed that every individual pays a predetermined amount of money that is earmarked for the revenue fund. The reasoning of the potential subscriber is, I guess, presumed to be something along the lines of ”if I already paid a predetermined amount of money for the purpose of supporting the creative workers, why should I sign up to a second scheme that makes me pay yet another predetermined amount of money for the purpose of supporting the creative workers? That would be like me paying twice for the same thing.”

    I think that line of reasoning would be especially common when it comes to mass produced media and culture. Political intervention or solutions that have a chance of creating that solution would, I guess, be of a greater support to now marginalised culture since the paying audience would be more inclined to go into several payment schemes there. That’s actually not so bad, if cultural policy is meant to encourage cultural diversity. :/

    Taking money from the general tax fund /is/ a planned economy solution since you’re removing some of the straint of money making from the market and putting the responsibility for revenues on the state.

  3. november 11, 2010 kl. 13:30

    That’s an interesting objection, but I think it’s flawed. The main motivation behind people putting money into Flattr or voluntary mp3 subscriptions or T-shirts is not a sense that ”I should pay for what I consume somehow”, but rather a sense that they like this artist and want to contribute.

    If people were searching for an excuse not to pay, they could already find it in the much larger amounts of tax money already channeled into the cultural economy through free educations, institutions and so on. Few people do!

    Maybe my main point would be that it’s new economic models we need, not necessarily new ”business” models. The point is ensuring good production conditions. If we can find solutions that let filmmakers concentrate on production and not distribution or marketing, that would be great. Is it important in itself whether the solutions we come up with could be considered ”business”?

    I’d say it isn’t. It is important, however, that they don’t give neither corporations or the state too much of a say on where the money goes. That would be my main objection to several possible economic models, including ”planned” ones.

    The planned part of the libraries is extremely limited (consisting mainly of librarians having a say about what qualifies for inclusion). It’s comparable to the lowered sales tax on book we enacted in Sweden some years ago. By your definition, the book market in Sweden would be a planned economy today, and I don’t think that’s a very useful way of using the term :)

  4. teirdez
    november 11, 2010 kl. 16:01

    Part of my analysis is based on allowing as large a compatibility with our current economic models as possible. It would be classic reformist reasoning: in absence of signs of the revolution, as a legislator I hope to encourage incremental changes in our economic environment (which is rather based on business models) that encourage the exploration of new revenue streams for culture. If there is a way to make a culture financing regime independent of state control, it should be explored – I’m a great believer in decentralisation. Nevertheless, the state should take a considerably stronger position in enforcing competition in all possible sense of the word. Sadly, the traditional anti-trust rationale of competition law makes it far too easy to overlook what freedom we are actually looking for in our markets (which are actually a great many more than than the ones market actors with shares of more than 90% could potentially remove from us, ref.: the net neutrality debate).

    I’m not adverse to the cultural financiation currently provided for by the state, and would not like to see it discontinued. I do however see tendencies of cultural funding from governments and also the European union being cut down, and my experience this far is that many of the other cultural projects of a large scale that I see are funded by one or two very large, global and private foundations. Again, the centralisation of these funding sources worry me. Realizing a regulatory environment where alternatives can crop up easily, swiftly and at low cost for all involved cannot be a bad idea.

    I find taxation in general is quite planned: we plan to take some money from somewhere to redistribute it somewhere else. Do you have another term to describe that process?

  5. november 12, 2010 kl. 15:52

    Thanks for a thorough response! I agree with the pragmatic approach, and I hope the digital libraries proposal can be one of those reformist suggestions.

    Perhaps redistribution would be a good term. The problem might that it’s difficult to single out such a basic part of the economic structure as a ”phenomenon”. Real economies cannot be divided into a) markets and b) government interference in those markets. Through taxation rules and a whole lot of other laws, regulation is an integral part of all markets. There is no ”market neutral” way of regulating, no ”neutral distribution”.

    There is a current distribution though, and we can talk about how action taken by governments, corporations or others change that distribution. ”Government redistribution”, ”Corporate redistribution”?

  1. november 10, 2010 kl. 09:01
  2. november 15, 2010 kl. 22:06


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