Copyright cultures

Publication Date11 Sep 2007
AuthorMichael Seadle
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Copyright cultures
Michael Seadle
Institute for Library and Information Science,
Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Purpose This column aims to look at the different economic and intellectual approaches to
copyright as separate cultures whose assumptions and approaches make it difficult for them to share a
single copyright law.
Design/methodology/approach – The methodology relies heavily on anthropological analysis to
distinguish the expectations and language of subgroups and microcultures within the larger national
and international copyright communities.
Findings – At least three different copyright cultures exist: for authors who require long-term
protection for financial gain from their works; for authors who require short-term protection for
financial gain from their works; and for authors whose value depends on access instead of protection.
Important subsets of the author cultures are also copyright consumers whose interests require access
as well as protection.
Originality/value – This analysis helps to show why existing copyright laws serve the interests of
some groups better than others. It also explains why open access makes sense as an established legal
alternative to automatic long-term copyright enforcement.
Keywords Copyright law, Riskassessment, Law enforcement
Paper type Case study
Copyright is more than a term of intellectual property law that prohibits the unauthorized
duplication, performance or distribution of a creative work. To artists, “copyright” means the
chance to hone their craft, experiment, create, and thrive. It is a vital right, and over the
centuries artists, such as John Milton, William Hogarth, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens,
have fought to preserve that right (RIAA, 2003).
The Recording Industry of American (RIAA) is one of the most aggressive defenders of
intellectual property in the US today. In this summary of their copyright position, they
depict the issue in cultural terms and link it with the works of famous people. They
neglect to mention what a tiny portion of the artistically and intellectually creative
population benefits from restrictive copying practices. Their job is to protect the
intellectual products of the rich and famous and those who managed to secure lucrative
rights from authors, which is not quite the same as encouraging creativity and
Their language evokes the fundamental basis for copyright in the US constitution:
The Congress shall have Power... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by
securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective
Writings and Discoveries (US Constitution, 2004).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 6 June 2007
Revised 7 June 2007
Accepted 8 June 2007
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 25 No. 3, 2007
pp. 430-435
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/07378830710821005

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