Saturday, March 14, 2009

Copyleft - All wrongs reversed.

As our country sails through the democratic high seas, new legislation and regulations will inevitably be put forward at the parliament. One of the things that is mostly called for are patents and copyrights. As citizens we need to be aware of what these actually mean, and how it affects our daily lives. One thing is certain, it will definitely have backing from special interest groups.

Copyright was originally intended to give the author of the said work exclusive right to make copies for a limited period. The purpose was to encourage authors (by giving economic incentive) to create works of art, without having the fear of someone else copying them. It is important to remember that copyright is not a natural right in the same category as right to life and liberty. It is a right granted by the society (via the state), to that particular individual or group. It has its scope and limits such as Fair Use.

For example in the US, copyrights were usually given for 20 to 30 years. However, like any legislation, extensive lobbying by special interest groups has extended the copyright period to more than 100 years at the expense of public interest.

When copyright legislation are proposed, one has to consider how far are we willing to go in the name of protecting the rights of authors. Do we really want draconian laws such as DMCA where you are not even allowed to make a copy of your legally bought DVD for backup purposes? Do we want laws that allow the ISP to become the copyright police by montoring our internet traffic, making the ISP answerable to the movie/music industry? Do you want to see the day where you won't be able to read your ebook twice?

Such days are not too far away. It is happening right now. For example, once a friend of mine gave me a dhivehi music video CD (could have been a dvd, don't remember now). The CD played only on cd players. When I tried to play it on the computer, the system crashed. It was made delibrately to crash the computer, and that was why my friend asked me to fix the problem. If such DMCA like laws are passed, you won't be allowed to circumvent that mechanism by using an alternative operating system or program. That would be illegal! It is my right that I can use whatever damn equipment to play the cd which I bought and paid for. The copyright holder does not have the right to dictate to me how I use it (since I am not copying).

These legislations are already in place for world enforcement such as WIPO TRIPS. We will have to wait and see how our MPs handle these. Wonder whether they will have any clue.

All contents of this article are copyleft symbol Copyleft. All wrongs reversed.

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