16 April 2008

Where Would We Be Without Patry?

William Patry, incidentally Google's copyright man, and, more pertinently, pretty much the world's leading expert on anglo-american copyright, has the shameless demand of the Music Business Group (MBG), a coalition of UK music publishers, record labels, and licensing organisations, for a second licensing fee for personal format shifting nicely skewered in this great post:

What this means to me is not that consumers have captured value that belongs to the industry, but rather that consumers have long been deprived of the value of their money, and are finally beginning to get something close to the true value of the product being sold. It is that market reality that scares the you-know-what out of the MBG, and that forced it to turn to a consultant to come up with a theory to sell to government policy makers as an example of the sky is falling from yet another effort to blame consumers for the industry’s own shortcomings. The proposed solution by MBG is an attempt to obtain a government-mandated subsidy by consumers of an industry that is finally being forced to give consumers what they want. There is no value for policy makers in mandating such an undeserved subsidy. And, as a policy matter, the theory on which it is based, namely that every unauthorized use by consumers is the misappropriation of value properly owned by copyright owners, has no limit; it applies to book reviews, news stories, quotations, parodies, the first sale doctrine, and a limitless term of protection (note the connection between the value theory and the concurrent effort at term extension for sound recordings in the UK and Europe). Even Blackstone’s view of property as the sole, despotic dominion of the owner never reached this far.

Hopefully the UKIPO will reject the proposed levy and the theory out of hand. Rejection would be a valuable lesson.

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