03 August 2008

A Sad Day for Copyright

In the dark, twisted world of copyright, one ray of light has been William Patry's blog. No more:

I have decided to end the blog, after doing around 800 postings over about 4 years.

Although Google's top copyright man, he wrote his blog in a purely private capacity as one of the leading copyright scholars in the world. Indeed, despite his position at that company, he was remarkably approachable: when I asked him to do a quick email interview for this blog he readily agreed. Sadly, one answer has proved prophetic:

I think copyright has become less and less responsive to the balance of incentives and exceptions that the 18th century English common judges grasped intuitively. Our ability to adapt has been seriously hampered by trade agreements, and that's a big problem.

Indeed, Patry now feels that this crucial "balance of incentives and exceptions" has been lost to such an extent that he can no longer blog. Alongside the fact that people kept assuming his views were official Google policy (they weren't), his other reason for stopping was simply:

The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing

This leads me to my final reason for closing the blog which is independent of the first reason: my fear that the blog was becoming too negative in tone. I regard myself as a centrist. I believe very much that in proper doses copyright is essential for certain classes of works, especially commercial movies, commercial sound recordings, and commercial books, the core copyright industries. I accept that the level of proper doses will vary from person to person and that my recommended dose may be lower (or higher) than others. But in my view, and that of my cherished brother Sir Hugh Laddie, we are well past the healthy dose stage and into the serious illness stage. Much like the U.S. economy, things are getting worse, not better. Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately.

When one of the world's pre-eminent experts in the field is so depressed by the state of copyright that he can't bring himself to blog about it, you know that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Thanks, Mr Patry, for all you gave, and sorry to see you go. Now it's up to us to carry on the fight for some copyright sanity.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"you know that something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

I hope you got permission for that quote. ;-)

glyn moody said...

Eeek, you're right, the Stratford Squad will be out to get me....

McDawg said...

Check out:-

"Restoring Old Posts"

http://williampatry.blogspot.com/2008/08/restoring-old-posts.html

glyn moody said...

Yes, that's good news - thanks for updating the story.