Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting to the bottom of the Value Recognition Right

ZDNet reports that the British Library wants copyright law to be updated to curb DRM excesses. This is one of the principles from their new "IP Manifesto" that was launched yesterday at a Labour party conference fringe event, where I was one of the speakers.

The BL principles are entirely sensible, but I don't think they realise how radical suggestions such as "maintain copyright limitations and exceptions in the digital environment" and "stop DRM from blocking legitimate uses of copyright works" are to the right holder lobby.

You cannot fault the industry lobbyists for their persistence. They turned out in force to chant mantras like "stronger IP rights are the engine of innovation and send a signal to the world about the value the UK places on creativity". The music industry in particular continued its campaign for their current pet schemes to extract further revenues from consumers with no economic justification, like a sound copyright term extension, or to impose a "Value Recognition Right" without any concomitant benefit to Internet users :-@

I have been trying to work out whether this new "Right" is any more than rent-seeking behaviour by the music industry. Why exactly should Internet use be taxed to provide revenues to specific groups of copyright holders? Taxes of course increase the price and hence reduce the demand for goods; how does this square with the government's commitment to increase broadband penetration and reduce the "digital divide" in the UK? Should all Internet users pay for the activities of those downloading music without permission from right holders? Why can't right holders negotiate a licence with ISPs to allow their users to pay for the use of music obtained from any source?

We are having an interesting discussion on the Open Rights Group list on this subject. Why not join us there?

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