Rights and Wrongs

Bands like Naio and others in Vanuatu could benefit hugely from the free exposure that the Internet provides. (One can only hope that their exclusive sponsorship agreement with TVL includes some kind of ring-tone/website/online distribution provision.) But measures currently being touted internationally would make things harder, not easier for small acts like them.

There is increasing movement internationally toward what distributors have termed a ‘graduated response’ to file copying. If you’re caught copying online once, you get a warning; two times and there’s a penalty; three times and you’re out.

That’s a bit like revoking someone driver’s license, not for dangerous driving, but for driving on knock-off tires.

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Independent newspaper.]

Following a recent workshop on copyright, the plight of the local reggae group Naio was used to demonstrate how copyright legislation could improve the lot of struggling Vanuatu artists.

Unauthorised copying, they claimed, had so reduced income from CD sales that the band simply couldn’t make a living on recording alone.

While the principle of respecting creative works is one I support wholeheartedly, I need to make this clear: Recent copyright reform has done little to change the plight of performers elsewhere in the world.

There are numerous interwoven ideas wrapped up inside what people call ‘Intellectual Property’. The World Intellectual Property Organization, a UN body, clumps many of them them together under the term Copyright. In essence, it says that Copyright – the right to exercise control over one’s creation – can be exerted over any creative work, its production or its broadcast.

The idea here is quite simple: Artists deserve to be rewarded for their work. Because they share their work with the world, and because we all benefit when they do so, they should be allowed a limited monopoly on the right to reproduce the work in question.

Well, that seems perfectly reasonable.

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