January 19, 2016 | By Parker Higgins

Copyright Week 2016: Making Copyright Work For The Public

Copyright Week

We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

It's hard to believe we're almost three years into the U.S. copyright reform process kicked off with a call to Congress for the Next Great Copyright Act—and that we're kicking off the third annual Copyright Week to boot. Once again, we're working alongside great partners in the copyright space to make sure that the public—from technology users, to readers, to fans, to artists—get their voice heard in debates that are all too often limited to a few industry lobbies.

We're entering a critical stage, too. It's been four years this week since Internet users staged the largest ever online protest of a bad copyright law, the Stop Online Piracy Act, that would've curtailed online speech and created a system of blacklists for sites and users. Four years ago, millions of us spoke up and derailed that proposal. But a lot can change in four years, and indeed we've started to see Hollywood and others try to sneak elements of SOPA back into the debate, through private agreements with intermediaries, influence on state officials, extraordinary injunctions in court, and more.

Beyond site blocking, this summer's DMCA rulemaking revealed another way in which an imbalanced copyright law hurts the public: allowing DRM software to encroach on our right to use our own physical stuff. Much of the conversation has focused on cars—a technology that traditionally encouraged tinkering and repair, now increasingly locked down—and the writing is on the wall: unless we fix the law around DRM, it will be used to take away our rights in more and more of the things we own.

The conversation is incomplete, though, when we just talk about the harms created by overly restrictive copyright. We need, also, to pay attention to the benefits of a cultural commons—a shared collection of material that we all may freely share and build upon. That's why today, the first day of Copyright Week, we're focusing on the public domain, and how the law can foster a stronger one.

In that spirit, we're once again putting forward a set of principles for what copyright law and policy should look like. Please, read them, share them, support them, and tell your lawmakers about them.

  • Building and Defending a Robust Public Domain. The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.
  • You Bought It, You Own It. Copyright policy should foster the freedom to truly own your stuff: to tinker with it, repair it, reuse it, recycle it, read or watch or launch it on any device, lend it, and then give it away (or re-sell it) when you're done.
  • Fair Use Rights. For copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.
  • Transparency. Copyright policy must be set through a participatory, democratic, and transparent process. It should not be decided through back room deals or international agreements negotiated in secret.

Once again, there's a lot to say about these four simple principles. So we'll be linking to blog posts and actions throughout the week on the landing page. Follow along, and participate: if you write or create something to support these principles, share it on social media and tag it #CopyrightWeek so we can see it.


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