Creative Commons: An Alternative Solution To Copyright Restrictions

1. Executive Summary

This report provides an analysis and exhaustive explanation of Copyright restrictions in order to encourage creators to choose Creative Commons licenses. The purpose is not only to give a clear understanding of why authors should chose Creative Commons licenses, but also to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of Copyright for the whole society or the public domain.

Methods of analysis include a literature review about the topic taking into account the defenders and the detractors of Copyright and intellectual property laws. It also includes qualitative analysis of data giving the opinion of experts, recording experiences and meanings. Talks and performances from TED conferences have been also consulted.

The report finds that Copyright mantains several materials out of the public domain because of corporate interests, instead of benefiting the whole society or promoting innovation and creation. In this global society, Copyright -and specially its extension- is an obstacle for the free flow of information and a democratic Internet. In addition, the report concludes Copyright has an uncertain future because it is not technically possible to control who is infringing copyright in the digital world.

It is recommended to register all the creative content under Creative Commons in order to:

 

  • preserve the public domain while protecting certain authors rights
  • have control over the content, instead of depending on Authors’ Rights Management Societies
  • have more flexibility and independence
  • chose under which conditions authors want to distribute their work
  • guarantee that material will be available for free for educational purposes or research
  • obtain a larger promotion on the Internet

 

1.1 Introduction/background to copyright laws

Filmmakers, writers, musicians, artists, scientist and, in short, anyone who wants to publish his/her creation has to deal with the most challenging legal issues to protect their rights. Another challenge is to know which content can be used freely and under which conditions. In addition, the way the marketplace is going has repercussions on effective communication because most of material is under copyright terms, ie, out of the public domain.

When talking about copyright laws, we have to take into account why copyright was created and in which context -sociocultural, political, technological and economic- in order to understand its evolution and why it is, currently, a controversial topic in the Information Society. Moreover, copyright involves not only intellectual property rights but also the citizen’s right to the access of information.

In addition, there are several actors playing different roles, such as the private sector and the stakeholders, the state and public service institutions, or grassroots collectives that are crucial to understanding the current policies. The impact of copyright laws and intellectual property has different consequences for each actor. While the industrial lobbies and private sector are claiming their economical rights, “netizens” are claiming that these laws are not only restricting the free sharing of information and knowledge but also restricting the developer’s creativity. This is because most original creation has been made using previous ideas of the others.

There is no doubt that this is a really complex topic which involves a broad set of actors, transnational policies processes and complicate legal concepts. As said in the beginning, the first step to understanding Intellectual Property law is analyzing its continued expansion over the past decades, it is categorizing more and more information into the private domain among the years, instate into the public one. Here is a brief introduction to the history of copyright.

1.2 History of Copyright

The privatization of ideas through Intellectual Property law was, in the beginning, a way to stimulate creation and invention. Allowing the authors to profit from their mind’s creation from a period of time was a way of encouraging people to produce creative work and generate new information. After a period, such creations entered into the public domain, so everybody could use and reuse again without restriction to produce more content. (Bernard, 2009, p. 160)

Despite the fact most nations have their own copyright laws, there are states that have influence enough to promote similar ways of copyrighting and monitoring someone breaking the law. The United States has high profits from the audiovisual industry and copyright, so they take care of protecting their industry from copyright infringement. (Cly Shirky, 2012)

The initial copyright law in United States pilot programme for promotion of local publications and reading culture protected the contents during 14 years, plus the option of renewing for 14 years more. The copyright term was extended by the Congress eight times between 1962 and 1976, having a strong impact on creators and developers because more works were kept out of the public domain for longer. Another important change after the 1976 was the fact that copyright became automatic: any creation was under copyright protection directly, without registration (Bernard, 2009, p. 161). One of the highlights of the expansion of the copyright protection was in 1998, with the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which protected the works for 70 years after the death of the author. The biggest supporter of the CTEA was the Walt Disney Company, who was earning large amounts of money with its corporate logo and the famous Mickey Mouse cartoon. Anecdotally and ironically, Mickey was drawn using public domain material whose copyright just expired one year ago. (Bernard, 2009, p. 162)

 

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