Celebrating control

Yesterday was World Intellectual Property Day which the World Intellectual Property Organisation has dedicated to, among other things:

[increasing] understanding of how protecting IP rights helps promote creativity and innovation;

Here’s an example:

In the 1930s an audio engineer named William Savory made a lot of high-quality recordings of live jazz performances of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Bunny Berigan, Coleman Hawkins and others. The National Jazz Museum in Harlem acquired the collection after Savory died.

Steven Seidenberg of the ABA Journal reports that “jazz experts were stunned,” by the recordings. “The extent and quality of the Savory collection was beyond anything they had imagined.”

Unfortunately, we will probably never get to hear the recordings, thanks to current copyright laws.

The copyright system, as it currently stands, is broken and badly in need of reform. It doesn’t protect creators, nor does it promote innovation – instead it works to keep the control of creative work in the hands of a small cabal of monopolies. Rather than celebrating a broken system, we should be taking a serious look at what we want IP laws to achieve and how they need to change to meet these aims.

As a first step, Leo Loikkanen (via Glyn Moody) has put together a World Sharing Day manifesto – completely open and editable, of course – although the inital deadline for changes will probably have passed by the time you read this.

But do go read it. If nothing else the document provides an excellent basis to start talking about what we do want copyright (and it’s related licences) to achieve.

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