24 June 2010

The Copyright Debate's Missing Element

There is certainly no lack of debate about copyright, and whether it promotes or hinders creativity. But in one important respect, that debate has been badly skewed, since it has largely discussed creativity in terms of pre-digital technologies. And even when digital methods are mentioned, there is precious little independent research to draw upon.

That makes the following particularly significant:

Doctoral research into media education and media literacy at the University of Leicester has highlighted how increased legislative control on use of digital content could stifle future creativity.

The Digital Economy Act 2010 alongside further domestic and global legislation, not least the ongoing ‘Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)’, combines to constitute a very hard line against any form of perceived copyright infringement.

Research implies that these pieces of legislation could stifle the creative opportunities for youngsters with tough regulation on digital media restricting young peoples’ ability to transform copyrighted material for their own personal and, more importantly, educational uses.

The key phrase here is "young people", because they are using content, including copyrighted materials, in quite different ways from traditional creators. As the researcher commented:

“There is a growing risk that creativity in the form of mash-ups, remixes and parodies will be stifled by content producers. With no clear ‘fair use’ policy, even when it comes to educational media production we are in danger of tainting many young people’s initial encounters with the law."

The current approach, embodied in the Digital Economy Act and elsewhere, risks not only stifling the younger generation's creativity, but alienating them completely from any legislation that touches on it. (Via @Coadec.)

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