The Case for Copyright Reform

The EU Pirate Party recently released an eBook on The Case for Copyright Reform, outlining their view on current copyright law and enforcement, and their ideas for reform.

I was particularly struck by the document's comparison of digital to analog communication, and the erosion of civil liberties that is taking place with that transition. So, while embracing the notion of free non-commercial copying, I thought I would share that passage here for anyone who was put off by the 100 page length of the entire document.

When I write a letter to somebody, I and I alone choose whether I identify myself in the letter inside the envelope, on the outside of the envelope, both, or neither. It is completely my prerogative whether I choose to communicate anonymously or not. This is a right we have in analog communications and in law; it is perfectly reasonable to demand that the law applies online as well.

When I write a letter to somebody, nobody has the right to intercept the letter in transit, break its seal and examine its contents un- less I am under formal, individual and prior suspicion of a specific crime. In that case, law enforcement (and only them) may do this. Of course, I am never under any obligation to help anybody open and interpret my letters. It is perfectly reasonable to demand that this applies online as well.

When I write a letter to somebody, no third party has the right to alter the contents of the letter in transit or deny its delivery. Isn’t it perfectly reasonable to demand that this applies online as well?

When I write a letter to somebody, nobody has the right to stand at the mailbox and demand that they log all my communications: who I am communicating with, when, and for how long. Again, to demand that this applies online as well would only be logical.

When I write a letter to somebody, the mailman carrying that letter to its recipient is never responsible for what I have written. He has messenger immunity. And yes, it is perfectly reasonable to demand that this applies online as well.

All of these fundamental rights are under systematic attack by the copyright industry.

As a relatively young person, who grew up with a computer and email in my house as a kid, I never really thought about the rights that are already taken for granted in the analog world of my parents who communicated with pen, paper, and the postal service.

It is quite striking how we now take all these rights as something to question in order to protect an old specific business model of some specific industry.

To me this really gets at the heart of the copyright debate, which is - What is the more important role of government? To protect civil liberties of privacy and due process, or to protect a specific business model in the cultural industry?

I know there are those out there that come down more on the side of copyright protection and enforcement as it is already occurring. I would be interested to hear if anyone arguing for more enforcement has ideas about how this is possible while still maintaining these rights to privacy and due process that have been in place for previous generations.