CopyNight DC for July

This month we were hosted by ALA. They have an enormous conference room and a good thing, too. We had another massive turn out for the discussion, at least twenty people.

Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge started the discussion of international copyrights. He covered normalization under the Berne and Rome conventions and the adoption of both of those for treaties from WIPO, with mixed success. With folks in attendance from many NGOs that have worked with WIPO as observer, many details were shared over the course of the evening on how policy is made. Not surprisingly, the most common quality is bureaucracy.

He also clarified how treaties are actually implemented locally, leading to some variation from country to country. He also used that to clarify a point about another topic of interest to the CopyNight regulars, ACTA. ACTA is an executive agreement, not a treaty as such, which explains a few things. The focus on enforcement seems to align with the idea that it is being adopted by the executive and not the legislative bodies of respective, participating countries. I suppose it also makes some sense of the short list of participants. The fact that there has been no visibility or public deliberation also seems to stem from it not having to eventually be ratified by each country’s law making body.

There was also a healthy discussion of limits and exceptions, the term for the broad category into which fair use in the US falls. It is the same category for the allowances for personal copies in countries that have that, typically with a blank media levy to compensate artists.

The other speaker for the evening, Carrie Russell, did a great job of explaining how ALA also participates as an NGO in WIPO discussions. This led into the ALA’s work on traditional knowledge and lore, a topic that fascinated more than one of us. There is a tension between intellectual monopoly and knowledge and practices of indigenous cultures. On the one hand they want to protect their culture but on the other, intellectual monopoly is a poorly fitted tool. Much of their cultural may need to respect different permissions for different audiences. Copyright doesn’t discriminate between a tribal elder and anyone else accessing some work. Libraries are increasingly working to preserve traditional cultures, hence their role in this discussion and by extend the ALA’s.

Towards the tail end of the evening, we hashed through some of the news of the day, including RMS’ comments on the Pirate Party’s desire to abolish copyright, the Kindle remote deletions, Open Source for America, and open codecs for the Web.

All around another engaging discussion with a great group with varied interests. And the ALA did a superb job of hosting, I look forward to returning their again, either for a future CopyNight or any other event of interest.

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