Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WIPO and Children

A recent post dealt with the transparent efforts of the Copyright Alliance to pass on the propaganda of its members as education to children as early as third grade. Recently, the World Intellectual Property Organization got into the act with its colorful 72 page booklet "Learn from the Past, Create the Future: The Arts and Copyright." The WIPO effort has a section on the public domain and other limitations (pages 40-47), a fact that distinguishes it from almost all other such efforts. The booklet even provides links to places where one can obtain access to pd or free use works. There are also features with young creators and good information about copyright basics. WIPO has made genuine efforts to present a balanced view.

My unease comes from the lengthy section on copyright infringement, including a page called "Game: Defending Authors and Performers," which attempts to teach children to distinguish between legal and illegal actions, prefaced with this statement: "You understand the purpose of copyright and related rights and want to respect the rights of authors and performers that you admire." Previous to this are conclusions like ""Piracy makes legal copies more expensive," and paragraphs about piracy taking away needed incentives.

It is not impossible to view the pages and pages of biographies of young authors as the prelude to the section on piracy. None of the young authors featured are however likely to have any piracy worries and thus one wonders why the heavy emphasis on them: could the idea of transference be at play, a desire to have children identify with young authors their own age and then transfer that identification to multinational corporate copyright owners? I don't defend piracy if defined as counterfeiting, but I think we have to be very careful not to manipulate young children under the guise of educating them.

7 comments:

Tomasz Rychlicki said...

Piracy? I always thought that "the crime of piracy comprehends an act upon the high seas" (61 Am Jur 2d Piracy § 8). ;)

What should I think about the WIPO if it is using and wrongly promoting a term which is not a proper definition for such a social phenomenon as the copyright infringement?

What's even worse, this was originally used on a large scale by a private organization. Aye, I meant the BSA. :)

William Patry said...

Ahoy matey

Anonymous said...

Tomasz--
Sorry, but according to the OED, the words 'pirate' and 'piracy' have been used in this context since at least 1603. Some examples (preserving the spelling, etc. from the dictionary):

1603 T. Dekker Wonderfull Yeare sig. A4, Banish these Word-pirates (you sacred mistresses of learning) into the gulfe of Barbarisme.

1668 J. Hancock Brooks' String of Pearls (Notice at end), Some dishonest Booksellers, called Land-Pirats, who make it their practise to steal Impressions of other mens Copies.

1703 D. Defoe True-born Englishman in True Collect. I. Expan. Pref. sig. B3v, Its being Printed again and again by Pyrates.

1706 D. Defoe Jure Divino Pref. p. xxvii, Gentlemen-Booksellers that threatned to Pyrate it, as they call it, viz. reprint it, and sell it for half a Crown.

Interestingly, copyright didn't appear on the scene until 1710, so really it originally meant something other than copyright infringement.

While it's a deliberately inflammatory term -- the modern equivalent would be 'terrorist' given what people thought about high seas pirates back in the day -- I think that the fight over it has pretty much been lost.

Crosbie Fitch said...

There are good pirates as well as bad pirates.

Bad Pirates : psychopathic libertines.

Good Pirates : human rights respecting libertarians.

They may both have utter contempt for the mercantile privileges of patent and copyright, but that doesn't make the pirate bad, nor the privileges good.

See The Freedom of Pirates or the Liberty of Civilised Men.

tomasz rychlicki said...

Dear Anonymous
I usually do not reply to anonymous posts because I like to know with whom I have the pleasure to exchange arguments, regardless if it is George Bush or Captain Jack Sparrow.
But, let me clarify.
There is no such crime as piracy in the copyright infringement context.

IMHO, the WIPO is a body that should stick to legal definitions to protect poetry and not to use poetic lines to promote law.

Crosbie Fitch said...

If we're into abolishing malapropisms then let's go the whole hog!

The WIPO is a body that should stick to protecting intellectual property and the rights of its owners against the unethical privileges of copyright and patent.

William Patry said...

Here is a lengthy story on the WIPO initiative with a comparison to the Canadian Captain Copyright:

http://www.p2pnet.net/story/13481