Gee! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the The 12th Biennial Copyright Law and Practice Symposium held in Sydney on 17 and 18 November 2005! I discovered the record of this talk fest through EdNA’s Recent Items feed, where they promoted an unashamed job application by Michael Fraser, the CEO for the Copyright Agency Limited, called Information wants to be free? or as it was put in the Symposium’s program, Copyleft in practice: issues & perspectives.

I am quite simply steaming after reading this last minute note from Fraser, it is filled with unreferenced “facts” and statements, misleading truths, and political side swiping. “These accusations are a bit rich coming from you Leigh” I might hear you say, but its one thing to write like Michael in the format of a blog, but to write like this and call it a paper! and pin a CEO’s name to it, and present it at a symposium… like I said, I would have liked to have been a horse fly on the wall at the Maritime Museum at Darling harbor those days.

For reasons that become obvious later in Frasers application, he spends half his ink and paper taking swipes at the Copyleft movement. Never actually defining who he is actually talking about when he refers to “Copyleft” Fraser says,

The copyleft movement is anti-copyright because they are opposed to intellectual
property. Copyleft disparages copyright as a powerful monopoly, but actually copyright is just a property right.

I feel sick just looking through this pdf for things to copy and paste here. Come to think of it, I’m a bit nervous… Fraser has applied nothing short of shallow spin here. How about we dismiss the first sentence as a misunderstanding, and swap the last sentence around a bit… how’s this? “Copyleft disparages powerful monopolies for their use of copyright as their sole property right”.

My jaw just dropped off when Fraser just keeps spinning, he’s like a kaleidoscopes top, I’m dizzy with amazement.

But in fact, if you look closely at Copyleft’’s ideals they are not really against property. Copyleft licensess allow for payments. Copyleft is not really against intellectual property. They are against other people’’s property, especially their competitors’.

What? where? is that a fact? who is he talking about? I dunno, but I get a strong sense that here we have yet another CEO not afraid embarrassess himself with displays of ignorance in attempts to spin his top.

The real danger posed by copyleft’’s anti-intellectual property, anti-copyright, is political. Copyleft adherents promote a weakening of copyright in policy and in law, especially by making the claim that copyright restricts the flow of ideas.

There is no copyright in ideas. Copyright prevents copying. Copying someone else’s
work without permission. Copyright does not restrict using or adapting any ideas.

Clearly the man ain’t digital. And clearly he has never tried to edit a documentary that happens to have footage that has accidentally captured copyrighted posters, TV shows or soundtracks in the background. Or what about when he wanted to put favorite music to the video of his kid taking her first steps? And is he not following the madness in patent laws at the moment? Copyright is more than just copy rights! The was it has been up until now, it has restricted using and adapting ideas!

Eventually Fraser does cut to the chase, and leaves behind all this when he tries to position himself and his line of work as being relevant in this day and age.

From rather polemical beginnings, the Creative Commons has become a moderate and constructive movement. The Commons have come to respect copyright as a tool for promoting communications.

Oh I see it now, copyleft is what the Creative Commons used to be before it saw the light being shined by people like Michael Fraser! Give this man a raise!

So I have proposed to the Creative Commons that rights management organisations such as CAL should work together with the Creative Commons to facilitate online access to creative content, both the free content and the commercial content together.

And there it is! CAL wants a job. Thanks for the interest Mike, but personally I wouldn’t want a guy like you trying to negotiate with people who come from heathier roots in the copyleft fields. Somehow I just don’t think you’re all going to see eye to eye on many things at all. I’m not too sure what you think CAL could offer here anyway? Google advanced search, Google Scholar, Yahoo advanced search, OurMedia, Flickr, and most other content management tools already offer rights management far beyond your reach. We might feasibly say goodbye to middle men like you, and start using these emerging pratices instead.

You might do better Mike, talking to the publishers, and explaining to them that their work gets good promotion in the free world, and they should reconsider their position on restricting third party property use. Work with them in thinking up better incentives to attract money from the exposure gained in the free world. Look to some areas in the slowly maturing music industry for ideas.

Looking at the Symposiums program though, there were some interesting and more informative presentations by the look. Well worth having a look through the available ones, and interesting to see where the copyright lawyers heads are at these days. Creative Commons and free and open source business models are well and truly on the radar I am pleased to see. How that gets interpreted by some though, is more than aembarrassingssing…

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