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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Amelia Andersdotter is Right about Europe’s Copyright Laws – They are Archaic and are in Need of Radical Revision

I am back now to the day that I spent in the European Parliament last November (2013) and the conversation I had with Amelia Andersdoter, who at the time was a Member of the European Parliament. Sadly she was not re-elected in the elections held in May 2014, which is a shame for she was a breath of fresh-air among stale politicians who are, on the whole, too keen to pander to powerful vested interest, and in doing so, criminalise ordinary people for doing what is natural – participating in and sharing culture.

Following my discussion with Amelia I undertook some research to understand more about her thinking. Her views on matters relating to copyright and the internet are, I believe, well considered and reflect a 21st century mind, which stands in sharp contrast to the 18th century industrial era minds of those who will, in the end, determine European copyright laws. Most of these people are unelected and include a group of people with vested interests, and their minds are firmly planted in 18th century industrial era thinking.

I fully agree with Amelia’s point that we should not be criminalising ordinary people who download content from the internet for non-commercial purposes such as teaching and participating in culture. Most of the people who do this would never purchase this cultural content in the normal course of events, and would not therefore be able to access it. To deny them access to this cultural content is to deny them access to culture.

Charging people to access something which is a fundamental to being human – culture – also highlights what is wrong with the modern world where just about everything is considered to be a commercial transaction, and nothing is of value unless it has economic value. It is time to role back this insidious practice, and to make much more cultural content available, for free. So we should be encouraging people to download cultural content and also providing them with facilities to use this material in creative ways.

I also strongly suspect that the downloading and non-commercial use of copyrighted material is something that most people in the modern world do, and that includes those who are fighting to preserve outdated copyright laws. So let us stop this nonsense of “all rights reserved” and start allowing people to make use of this content.

There has to be other business models that will enable the above and my quest is to discover what these models are. At the time I spoke with Amelia, I had already embraced open access publishing, by providing free access to my books on-line. This is because I write books for people to read! This for me, as a professional writer, is the primary objective. The making money from my books is a secondary issue. I realise that this may seem strange to the out-of-date people – the 18th century thinkers – in the media industries, but art – in this case literary art – is not about money, it is about making people fly and helping them to see the world in different ways. By throwing off the shackles of commercialism, I am able to be more innovative, because I can now write the books that I want to write, and produce books which advance the art form that is literature, for I do not have an agent or a publisher telling me what to write, or telling me that a particular book is not what the market wants. This, one might say is the point!

And this also is the response to those stupid people with vested interests who say that “if creators cannot earn from what they create it is a hobby and not a business”. About this they are wrong. Such a statement is also a gross insult to artists and writers, and the appropriate response to this, from artists and writers, is for them to unleash the forces of creative destruction on these vested interests by developing business models that are founded on open access and free downloading.

One of my current activities is to discover what these new business models are. I dare to dream that I can put existing media companies out of business. As part of this I have taken the decision to deny publishers access to my content and to make it available for free, on-line. This is not to say that I will not work with publishers. I am happy to do so, but on my terms, not theirs. Currently I am working on many business model related matters, which include the use of hacking and also Creative Commons open culture licences. I plan, in due course, to publish a book under such a licence, and to actively encourage people to hack the content, to download it, and to apply the content in their own creative work – all for free! It makes business sense to do so!

This is a matter I will return to in future blogs for there is much to say about these issues, which include reporting on some rather dirty and illegal work that publishers are engaging in to force the public to pay more for eBooks. This by the way, dear Anne Glover (current (at time of writing) Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission), is just one reason why we should not show a little trust to industry, and why you should stop saying such stupid things – you only make yourself look naïve and foolish! But you are a scientist so what more can one expect of you … You are European too, so doubly handicapped, being as you are, like Prometheus.

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