Opening salvo on the battle for commons-based digital rights

As mentioned earlier this week I was catching up with some hard-copy reading during my holiday, including Eben Moglen’s Anarchism Triumphant.

Moglen’s essay explains why it is that “software” resists traditional forms of copyright  both legally and technically and instead embraces new legal paradigms, such as commons-based agreements.

I put software in inverted commas as Moglen extends this concept beyond the explicit programmes which our computers run; instead he suggests that “software” includes the creative ideas and content which produced, shared and adapted by individuals.

Thus, Moglen contends, traditional organisations with an interest in protecting their IP are becoming ever more aggressive and – some would say – desperate to make sure the Brave New World of commons-based digital rights never happens; or more accurately, happens in the way they dictate.

Fascinating stuff. Either way this is a preamble to flag a revelatory post by David Weinberger who blogs about an important federal judge ruling that will hopefully set a legal precedent preventing companies (Viacom in this case) from sending copyright infringement notices automatically in any instance where they pick up key words, e.g. “jon stewart” or "daily show".

Not only does this flouting the ol’ “innocent until proven guilty” line, it is also tantamount to a deliberate policy of heavy-handed copyright protection-as-future-deterrent.

As Weinberger points out, while sending infringement notes from an automatically generated list takes seconds, “the response is analog, and thus hard, time-consuming, and risky”.

I think it’s fair to say these issues affect all of us – as individuals or professionals, whose clients may just be on the receiving end of an infringement action at some point.

Either way, they are definitely not going to go away. I only hope we have a judiciary far-sighted enough in the UK to make and uphold such rulings here.

Technorati tags: Digital Rights, Copyright, Copyleft, David Weinberger, Viacom

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