The more I read Lawrence Lessig's book Free Culture the more I see the importance of the current battles for copyright that have been simplified into a war on internet pirates. Lessig is able to provide the history of copyright in the legal precedents that shape its use and his argument is that "copyright law at its birth had only publishing as its concern; copyright law today regulates both" publishing and the creative process of "building upon or transforming that work". (p.19)
It's interesting to see current examples of this, like the House of Cosbys which built upon the creative work of Bill Cosby in using the character he created of himself in popular culture. It's a shame they didn't choose to make the show the House of Pryors as they may have been able to avoid upsetting a living figure.
The other argument in Free Culture is that industries built around profiting from creative work through distributing it, marketing it and marking up the price on it are succeeding in "remaking the internet before it remakes them". (p.9)
Lessig discusses the way RCA kept the technology of FM radio they developed out of practice for as long as possible to avoid jeopardising their interests in AM radio.
An interesting development in the last couple of days demonstrates both of Lessig's arguments and relates them to television:
The United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization has called a last-minute meeting on June 21 in Barcelona, out of the normal diplomatic venues to try to ram through the Broadcasting Treaty. This treaty gives broadcasters (not creators or copyright holders) the right to tie up the use of audiovisual material for 50 years after broadcasting it, even if the programs are in the public domain, Creative Commons licensed, or not copyrightable.It'll be interesting to see how it plays out because I wonder, if it comes into effect, would it mean that all the stuff I've put on YouTube will belong to them?