[cc-fr] article sur la nécessité d'un nouveau contrat social en matière de droit d'auteur
daniele.bourcier at cersa.cnrs.fr
Sun Apr 11 13:58:10 EDT 2010
Bonjour, Voici l'article de Juan Carlos Martin, coordinateur de Communia
résumant les travaux et conclusions de ce réseau européen.
"The European Voice"
Regulating culture in the internet age
18.02.2010 / 04:11 CET
*We need a new social contract about the way we deal with authors and
culture in the digital era. *
I write in response to your article on Google
digitalisation of in-copyright but out-of-print books, a topic that
raises the broader issue of copyright and a topic that should be part of
a discussion about how we share and transmit our cultural heritage
("Publishers hope Google's library will be brought to book", 4-10
The vast majority of our cultural heritage is in the public domain. That
means that it can be freely printed, distributed, performed, translated,
adapted, illustrated, made into a film, set to music and so on. That
music (for instance, Verdi's), those performances (for instance, early
jazz), those novels (for instance, Goethe's), those essays (for
instance, Montaigne's) are a common good that fuels our cultural life
and our economy in ever-changing ways -- from making it easy to produce
large-print editions for the visually impaired to filling our brand-new
electronic readers with hundreds of books at no charge. The public
domain -- which covers everything from Homer to Freud -- is the natural
state of culture. It has always been.
But when we get closer to the present day, the situation changes. There
is, in fact, a temporary exception to the public domain. It is called
copyright. Invented, in its modern form, three centuries ago, copyright
creates a temporary monopoly in favour of the author (who can give it
away, if he or she so wishes).
The intended deal is that the temporary monopoly should provide an
incentive to produce more works, thereby benefiting the whole of
society. The benefit of having more works should, of course, be large
enough to counterbalance the negative effects of all monopolies (that
is, higher prices and control); otherwise, the system would not work as
intended. In any case, the temporary monopoly is not absolute: it is
subject to "exceptions and limitations" essential to preserve our
freedom to critic, discuss and inform.
Originally, the temporary exception lasted only 14 years from the date
of publication, renewable once. Moreover, copyright was granted only to
registered works. One knew whom to ask for permission. Fair enough.
Now the temporary exception called copyright lasts, on average, 70 years
after the death of the author. That is an astounding reduction of the
public domain, which, being a common good, often goes undefended (the
ecology of knowledge is still in its infancy, politically speaking).
A monopoly of such excessive length means that most of the culture
produced during the 20th century -- that is, the culture shaping our
vision of the world to this day -- is 'all rights protected'. Not only
that: there is no longer a copyright registry. Therefore works remain
protected long after the death of the author, but there is no easy of
knowing who owns the rights and how to contact them: was the author
married? Did he/she have children? Or even grandchildren? Where do they
live? And if the rights belonged to a publisher, as is often the case,
what if that publisher closed shop in, say, 1957?
No surprise that, according to some estimates, as much as 70% of
still-in-copyright books are 'orphans' -- 'orphans' on the shelves of
our libraries and (almost) untouched by publishers for fear of legal
liabilities. And if the number of 'orphans' represented an incredible
waste of knowledge decades ago, the wastage is simply shocking in the
internet era, when, at limited cost, we could digitalise those 'orphans'
and make them available to shape the minds of our children (and our own)
and preserve them from the inevitable physical decay of paper.
In this scenario, ripe for structural reform and yet frozen in its
present form as if the internet had not yet been invented, enters
Google, which wants to build a huge digital library. A noble enterprise
(albeit undertaken, naturally, for a profit). Google does not wait for
legal reform, however: it forges ahead, internet-style, scanning
millions of books, whether they be in the public domain, 'orphans', in
or out of print. After the fait accompli, it then forges a deal with the
representative of authors and publishers, the so-called Google Books
Settlement, which is currently under examination.
It is a hugely complex agreement; some legal experts find at least parts
of it elegant and clever. However, it is a privately contracted solution
to a public issue that affects the whole of our society: how should we
regulate culture in the 21st century? To this public problem a public,
effective solution is in order. A new social contract about the way we
deal with authors and culture in the digital era, with the aim to
recognise and protect the crucial role of the public domain, while, at
the same time, equitably protecting the rights of the authors, for the
overall benefit of society.
/*Juan Carlos De Martin */
/Network co-ordinator Communia: the European thematic network on the
digital public domain /
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