Copyright as a Human Right
If there’s any single writer that can make copyright humorous, it is William Patry. When describing the push to equate copyright (a relatively minor issue in the broader scheme of world affairs) with human rights (an extraordinarily important issue), Patry comments with typical sarcasm: “I confess to being moved to tears by European human rights attorneys taking up the cause of very large U.S. broadcasting corporations: Donald Rumsfeld was so wrong.”
Seriously, though, the injection of copyright into international affairs has been steady and dangerous since the trend results only in more rights for multinational corporations. Talk about “authors” and “creators” has little to do with individuals who create original works fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Those words merely are code designed to make readers think Grandma needs more rights to protect her cross-stitch designs. In reality, “Grandma” is a global commercial behemoth with business presences on all continents that is hell bent on leveraging copyright and other intellectual property schemes to foster dollar-driven hegemony.
(Well, perhaps not the dollar these days. Substitute the Euro.)
In fact, one could argue reasonably that here in the U.S., the effort to move copyright past what Patry calls its “current Incredible Hulk level” is occurring at least as much on the international and local levels as it is in Congress. We have reported several of the entertainment and content industries’ lobbying efforts have resulted in a sort of “paracopyright” at the state level. (California’s passage of AB 307, which ties school funding to a copyright “education” program influenced by the RIAA, is one example.)
And, of course, we have chronicled at several junctures the Special 301 process under the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The Federal Register notice that effectively asks multinational corporations and their trade groups to tell the Trade Representative which countries have failed to draft (or enforce) copyright law at America’s “Incredible Hulk level” was published last week. It is due on Monday, February 11. The copyright choke hold is in full effect and running on all eight cylinders.
The Patry Copyright Blog. Appeals to Human Rights: The Next Battlefield? Jan. 17, 2008.
(Editor’s Note: Copycense editors originally commented on this article in the Jan. 22. 2008 edition of Copycense Clippings, and it was an Article of the Week selection.)
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