CopyCamp: Who are "they" in the various "us vs them" copyright debates?

One of the hardest things at CopyCamp for most creators will be to get past thinking that the "them" they are fighting against are large transnational corporations. In my personal experience most of the debates are not of the form "us vs them", but really "us vs. us", meaning it is disagreements (sometimes quite strong) between fellow authors/creators that are at the heart of most copyright issues.

I was reminded of this when reading the Session List on the WIKI, and the entry submitted by Andre Cornellier under the title of "How to turn all this talk into action".

To quote:

It is great to have ideas about how to solve all the problems of copyright, but if nobody puts them into law what is the use? We all want to get the government to address the problem of the copyright law, but we do not have the money to work with major lobbying firms.
It has taken more then 8 years, after the last copyright change, in 1998, for the government to address artists’ concerns. Then an election came and the whole agenda was wasted. A big lobby comes along, the education ministers lobby, and they get priority.
How can we, creators, make the government move on our demands, our needs? And this before the next century is over……How to give our needs clout, and momentum?

This write-up assumes that creators are a unified group who agree, and that we can come together to move on our collective demands.

I've met Andre a number of times in the past. We met at the 2003 "Ministers forum on Copyright", at various Creators' Rights Alliance events, and on opposite sides of the S-9 debates (photography) in the senate.

I hear his name often mentioned in the so-called "educational use of the Internet" debate in support of the Access Copyright proposal. This is often in the context of the confusion that some creators have between the appropriate use of TPMs that are needed to indicate licensing choices on the Internet, and the entirely different abuse of TPMs that have often come under the title of DRM (Digital Restrictions Management).

The three issues that are of most concern to me as a creator are:


  • the legalization and legal protection of the abuse of TPMs that take basic rights away from the owners of information technology (DRM, Broadcast Flags, attempts to close the "Analog hole"), as well as circumvent many other laws such as anti-trust/competition, privacy, etc.
  • the imposition of business models by the government on creators, removing the rights of the author to explore a full spectrum of methods of production, distribution and funding (Example: extended licensing or exemptions for educational use of the Internet)
  • the expansion or obfuscation of the term of copyright (Example: The proposed change to have life of photographer added to the term of photographs, even though the photographer is unknown/unknowable for the vast majority of photographs)

On all three of these issues I have been on the opposite side of the table from Andre. I don't know if I qualify as being part of a "big lobby", given I'm entirely self-financed and self-motivated for all the volunteer lobby work I am currently doing.

Will it be possible for the two of us to sit down and chat about these issues so we can come to an understanding? Will any attempt we make to discuss these issues only end in unhealthy arguments? Are there going to be enough people at CopyCamp who can act as bridges between creators with such strongly opposing opinions?

While I believe there is a need for governments to protect the rights of creators, we as creators need to realize that we don't yet agree on what changes would help or hinder our rights. We first need to come to an agreement as creators before we try to "blame" the government for not "moving forward" on proposals that many creators believe are against the interests of creators.