Panel: Copyright – Where do we go from here?

Copyright Panel (photo by Arnar Bergmann)

The copyright panel was a fiery affair, with some understandable  locking of horns between Levine and Klang, representing the two sides of the copyright argument.

Robert Levine, on the subject of the Creative Commons, within which Klang is Project Lead for Sweden, argued that the “Creative Commons licenses are practially written in crayon.”

He observed that CC only has one copyright, as opposed to two: mechanical and composition. “Why?” he asked. “Here are some possibilities: some of the smartest lawyers in the US forgot about it? They wanted to create confusion? If I record Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, they want to create a  situation where those mechanical royalties are impossible to collect?  I’ll give you a clue, it ain’t the first.”

Klang refuted this, adding that: “Creative Commons are doing it for no money and they are not financed by Google, the whole connection with Google is confusing me,” he said, in reference to Levine’s previous claim that many law schools are funded by Google.

Designer Sigga Heimis, who works for Ikea, cut in to put forward the argument that instead of discussing the past, “Why not try to reach young people? Ten years ago people were sceptical about selling ecological products, (they) cost more, no one is going to buy them…now they sell like candy. Why not put energy into educating young consumers, try to talk towards the future rather than nag about the situation today?” She also raised the concern that while millions are pumped in to protect brands, more money should be pumped into creativity.

On the subject of downloading and watching material online for free, Levine observed that there is an assumption among young people that “if something is on YouTube, it’s legal.” Klang, as a university teacher, spoke of his concern of criminalising young people: “I don’t want to teach a 13-year-old ‘You know that thing all your friends do? You can’t do that.’ I don’t want to make children outlaws.”

While there are benefits to artists’ work being shared and played online, Gudrun Bjork Bjarnadottir, former lawyer and general manager  of STEF, the performing rights society of Iceland, said there is hope for the future for those concerned about the lawlessness of the web: “YouTube is currently making contracts with (Scandinavia) so we are slowly making the internet a regulated place. We cannot take a part of our culture and say: this is a place where no regulations apply. We need regulations in that sphere as in other spheres of our lives. The goal is to make money for artists. I would be very glad if at least some could make a living from being an artist.”

A round up of other interesting thoughts from the panel:

Njordur Sigurjonsson, lecturer at Bifrost University: “We shouldn’t  
let the unions dominate the most important question of our time –  
where is culture heading? We need to open the discussion, ‘Free Ride’  
is a contribution, this might be one of the most important issues of  
the future. This should be a wider topic in terms of democracy and  
business interest.”

Gudrun: ‘Interesting times ahead. I was moved by Ralph’s speech about  
what was up and coming in technology. I do also have hopes for the  
future, and as we discussed educating hte young re copyright, it  
actually is so that the youngest generation is the quickest at  
picking up on Spotify – it’s the older generation that is using peer-
to-peer illegal file-sharing, there are signs we are going in the  
right direction,”

Klang: “I feel that part of what exists in other cultures, you should  
be able to opt out of copyright and put your work in the public domain.”

Sigga: “The word copyright, it’s a problematic kind of thing and  
people don’t address it but it is something we have to solve rather  
than debate about, integrate it into education.”

And the final word from Alex MacNeil, CEO of Gogoyoko, a service that  
allows artists to sell directly to fans: “The future is artists being  
paid fairly, responsibility being taken by the companies that make  
distribution, not hiding behind lawyers and double speak. That’s the