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---------- Forwarded message ----------From: Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004@...>
Date: 12 Apr 2008 08:10
Subject: [p2p-research] Fwd: Inevitability of Copyright Law? (Review in Mainstream, India)
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From: Frederick [FN] Noronha * फ्रेडरिक नोरोन्या <fredericknoronha@...
Date: Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 1:04 AM
Subject: Inevitability of Copyright Law? (Review in Mainstream, India)
Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 13
Inevitability of Copyright Law?
Sunday 16 March 2008, by G Narasimha Raghavan
The Copy/South Dossier: Issues in the Economics, Politics and Ideology
of Copyright in the Global South edited by Alan Story, Colin Darch and
Debora Halbert; The Copy/South Research Group; Kent; 2006.
Theological affiliations apart, Mark Twain's statement--"only one thing
is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law in the
planet"--is too tempting to be refuted, especially for the global
South. If not, how can one make sense of most nations' copyright
periods extending to 50 or 70 years after the death of the author,
when the harbinger of copyright, the Statute of Anne, awarded at the
most 14 years of copyright protection after publication? This is one
among the torrent of questions that The Copy/South Dossier raises. The
Dossier, a joint effort of number of academics and information
activists, "seeks to provide backing to the argument that copyright
laws imposed upon the global South have had, and will continue to
have, a negative impact". Without mincing words, the editors'
predilection for the global South only adds value to the dossier in
terms of its research commitment and accomplishment. With 50 odd
papers written by leading academics and information activists, it has
been no mean task for editors, Alan Story, Colin Darch and Debora
Halbert, to put them together and give them a standardised dealing.
The most important aspect of this Dossier, next only to its appealing
content, is the argumentative style and analytical approach.
The next consistent question would be to ask: why South? The global
South (Asia, Africa, and Latin America, mostly) at the one end has
been obliterated from any meaningful discussion on the impact of
international intellectual property rights regimes on it, and at the
other end, it is the South that has been bearing the brunt of a global
Copyright system, which has brought up the difficulty of understanding
the rationale behind the facets of access to information versus
payment for information predicament. Though the statement that the
contemporary IPR regime itself is a superimposition on an otherwise
'free sharing of information' society can be warded off as standard
fare, it is, nevertheless, essential to take cognisance of the
incompatibility of West-mooted IP laws, lest it become a
taken-for-granted part of the South. This makes resistance to the
regime all the more crucial.
It is not without reason that the Orient and the Middle East are
considered pioneers in fields like Mathematics, Astronomy or Surgery.
The unconvincing stance of the copyright system seeks to replace this
'culture of sharing' with globalisa-tion's upshot of a 'culture of
monopolisation and privatisation'. The political orchestration of the
powers that be, behind such discourteous operations can hardly be
concealed. This has had many a repercussion:
* Preventing free speech
* Impeding cultural exchange and production of knowledge
* Unwarranted control of channels of communi-cation (media).
A semantic analysis of the word 'piracy', very often attributed to
copyright infringers, does not attempt to capture the reality of
breach, but rather attempts to inflict a pessimistic shade to the act,
reminiscent of anarchic hooliganism. The currency the term 'copyright
pirates' has gained, reminds one of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet
Letter--only too obvious and at once disgusting. To accentuate the
South's anti-copyright attitude, piracy figures are churned out en
masse. No economic logic exists behind the statistics on piracy, and
its superfluous coverage in the media is only an act to secure
"unwarranted authenticity" and support.
Besides questioning the validity of the data, the Dossier raises a
slew of fundamental issues:
* Who should decide how much of a book can be photocopied? Or even,
whether a publication can be photocopied at all?
* Why copyright in reality does not induce newer publications, but
* Must access to information be the casualty in the digital era?
* Can copyright protection safeguard traditional knowledge?
* Should 'commodification of culture' be allowed despite the
commercial gains for indigenous communities?
* How appropriate is treating copyright infringement as an act of
crime? These and other value-loaded issues confront the reader and it
is impossible to passively read the Dossier.
The overarching themes of the Dossier are in questioning the
ideology/philosophy of copyright, its universal applicability and its
manifestations in the global South. Apparently, the core argument
spotlights the concern of inevitability of copyright law. The
alternatives to the copyright regime suggested include the prominent
Creative Commons licence or even the less known Waitangi Trubunal of
New Zealand. There is enough for readers to contemplate on the
alternatives hinted at--either within copyright law, outside it or even
through it. It must be realised that recognising that there is a
problem in the South because of copyright law doesn't make one feel
any better, unless the causes are delineated, which the dossier
discharges. However, providing a solution is another dimension of the
discourse, which is beyond the agenda of the Dossier. If a reader is
disappointed that the dossier does not 'give' a solution, but plainly
'suggests' alternatives, it is time to remember Marc Bloch's
insightful statement that "...there are times when for once the
formulations of problems is more urgent than solutions...". This, the
The reviewer is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Economics, PSG
College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu).
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Ym/Gmailtalk: fredericknoronha http://fn.goa-india.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9970157402
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