Judge Miriam Patel gave a talk about copyright earlier this week, as reported on Wired.
“It was not surprising that the notion of free music caught on,” Patel said at Fordham. “What is surprising is how the industry seemed to be caught so short. While it was fumbling the new ways to distribute digital music at a profit in the new age, savvy innovators were moving full speed ahead. Sadly, it is the artists and composers who have been the most neglected in this matter.”
But legislation is not the answer, she has concluded. “Our copyright laws have become a patchwork of amendments that are adopted as emergencies arise” and as lobbyists representing various interests push legislation. Simply put, the system is too complex and doesn’t properly address music’s present — let alone its future.
I’m not too convinced that her proposed solution will fly (in fact, it sounds like it would be a huge fiasco), but her characterization of current copyright law as “a patchwork of amendments that are adopted as emergencies arise” is a familiar complaint.
I just finished Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide, which emphasizes (repeatedly) the importance of CCH vs Law Society of Upper Canada as a landmark case in Canadian copyright law. What was interesting about the case was that the Supreme Court examined the extent of Fair Dealing in Canada’s Copyright Act, which had previously been considered a “patchwork” of exceptions for users, but which the judges articulated in the ruling as “users’ rights” (which is closer to the “blanket” concept of Fair Use in U.S. copyright law).