Copyright as Respect – Pfft!

I can still remember the way it made me feel sick in the stomach.  It was the first time I heard the “copyright-as-respect” meme.  It was at first Unlocking IP Conference at UNSW in 2004.   I was on a panel talking about something-or-other copyright.  During questions from the floor, one of the delegates related a story about how their 8 year old daughter had invoked copyright in scolding their six year old sister for copying a dance she was doing.  The questioner remarked that it was a good thing that perceptions of copyright had filtered into the community that far.  As I mentioned, to me this principle – that a young child ought not be entitled as of right to learn from her sister though imitation – was so perverted as to make me feel ill, physically.   Not so much because it was self-evidently stupid, but because it presaged the dark world of the future that copyright ideologues would push on society given half a chance.

Not so the representative from the copyright lobby.  No, in their view it was all about respect, respect for the creator of the work and blah blah blah.  [I was tempted to respond but I couldn’t find any way of expressing myself which wouldn’t end up as a personal attack, so I held my tongue]

As far as I can tell, the “copyright-as-respect” meme is the one used when a copyright totalitarian is in hostile territory (note the title of the conference).  I don’t recall ever hearing the meme, for example, in the parliamentary inquiries I’ve been to with copyright ideologues from time to time (happy to be corrected).   Of course, running one argument in one circumstance and another in another with a view to pursuing your own advantage is being less than full and frank.   At the least, it is not being very respectful to your audience.

I don’t know any parent who tells their children it is wrong to share, especially with their siblings.  Do you?


1 Response to “Copyright as Respect – Pfft!”

  1. 1 lucychili 1 December 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Copyright as respect is a flipping of the traditional perspective that copying is an indication of respect. I believe that this approach was a part of Chinese or Korean approaches to copying, but also has a tradition in European Art Galleries where copying has been a gesture of respect. People often painted master paintings in order to understand how the original was expressed. Guilds and schools of art also have this kind of heritage of shared aesthetic. And respect through carrying a meme on.

    The following are short fiction thoughts about where copyright maximalist thinking could lead:



    Doctor and Jo

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