ACTA and the intellectual property

Today, on Guy Fawkes night, there is held a demonstration against ACTA in Oslo, Norway. Since I am living in Edinburgh, Scotland for the moment I have no opportunity to participate or view this demonstration. Instead I want to write down some reflections and ideas on Digital Media, Globalization and the fight against counterfeits  either if they are manifested through ideas, copyright, connotations or imitations.

I do not have any particular knowledge about the ACTA agreement, except what I have read online (1,2,3) , and and seen through a youtube video. On the other hand, where I do have some knowledge is within the field of digital media and some copyright laws (Norwegian and the Bern Convention). I will try to elaborate some of my opinions on why ACTA is wrong, albeit we are in need of a new way of handling intellectual property.

To understand both the arguments for and against the ACTA we will first need to understand the new ways of copying and distribute intellectual, copyrighted material. This is necessary since there have been a profound change in how information is shared the last 25 years. This is mainly due to new ways of representing different media through computers, and a revolution in computers capacities and communication between computers.

The Bern convention, which today is ratified in most countries, assess some minimal values which countries have incorporated into their legislature. The Bern convention came to replace national predecessors who were unable to protect copyrighted works outside the nation where they were originally produced. The Convention guaranties an equal right of a work within all the signatories countries, and asses elements such as a literary work is released into the public domain 50 years after the authors dead, and similar regulations for other expression. One of the problems with the Bern convention is its age, since there have been several technological improvements since the 1880s. Another problem is that it does not specify the scope of what that could be copyrighted. Obvious examples of works that are entitled to copyright  books includes literary prose, films and poems. More problematic is it to define collections, ideas, phrases and so on. As theyoutube video above asks, is it right that a recipe acquired at a cooking class is not to be shared since just the one who paid for the course is entitled to use this. My answer is, according to the laws I know, no. Neither ideas nor practices are entitled copyright protection. Here comes the tricky part: Neither the ideas the author writes or the book that the text is printed in has any intellectual protection, it is the sole text, with its combination, expressions and combination of words that is protected.Thus is it too simple to draw comparisons between stealing a DVD in a video store and downloading it online. The DVD has no value except the physical value of the material and processes to distillate the disk.

Copyright infringement is not a new phenomenon, but cheap computers that can represent visual text, pictures and video as well as audio in combination with high speed Internet connection has made it awfully/incredible (choose your own adjective) to produce a new copy of a work. When you download a movie, the movie stays on the original disk, but a similar copy is transferred and store on your computer. A fun fact is that when you are watching online material, this is also copied to your computer in order to make it efficient and fast (buffering).

This does not mean that it is legal to download a product. Even if I go to library borrow a book and write it down by hand, it is still illegal. I think the intellectual right is important if it should be possible to get an income from something else than producing bread and hammering nails into a wall. However the time of selling cheap to produce CDs and DVDs for billions of dollars are over, and we need to find new methods of buying and selling intellectual properties. I mean that instead of threatening people to be excluded from the Internet, surveillance all packages and hunt down every little counterfeit we need to find new ways to distribute works. Why are e-books subject to VAT, while paper books are not? Why should I have to walk down the video store to loan a physical DVD with scratches and fingermarks under it, when I could download it directly from my TV? We need new products with new business models. In a time where supplies are infinite the Smithsonian theory of supply and demand is obsolete, or just bad news for the suppliers.

Give us prices that reflects the values of the products, instant delivery and opportunities to use alternative payments models instead of more surveillance, threats and regulations who will reduce the spread of intellectual property.

Picture is a counterfeit of PUMA. The picture is released under a Creative Commons license by M.A.R.C on Flickr. An interesting phenomenon is how brands are being modified and used on clothes, especially t-shirts.

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