Friday, 18 July 2014

Embracing the open opportunity

In a speech yesterday, Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes  welcomed the development of 'open knowledge' and called for urgent reform of copyright law: here's the Press release. 

Her beef about copyright law concerns the effect it can have on teaching and the dissemination of knowledge: educational resources should, she thinks, be free to share. Which sounds fine in theory, but who's going create them without the protection of copyright to ensure that they stand a chance of earning a living from their work?

'It’s a crime', she said, 'when teachers are prevented from freely sharing open educational resources.' On the contrary: it is more likely to be a crime when teachers do share, if they infringe copyright. It's arguably a shame when that happens, but she's got a bit carried away there - and introduced an unfortunate metaphor.

She went on to insist that copyright needs changing: “Those rules were designed for a different age, more about limitationand control than creativity and freedom. Holding back ideas from open education to data mining: copyright needs urgent reform.” Well yes, it does, but wouldn't it be better to get copyright back in its box so that there is no danger that ideas receive protection? So generous and indiscriminate is copyright that it's far too easy for its owners to oppress people who do to their work acts that have not the slightest impact on their economic interests - and the best way to deal with that is to make copyright more discriminating, not to punch holes in the fabric of protection. Introduce a sensible test for originality!

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