Is the well of copyright dry? or poisoned?

Like poor Charlie Brown we are doomed to keep charging the copyright ball only to have it yanked away at the last minute by the remorseless Lucy.

Three new Rewriting the Cartoons comics show a few of the ridiculous dilemmas that currently mire copyright reform in permanent debate. You could draw comics like this for every conceivable position on Bill C-32 (in fact, to mash up your own just copy the blank strip below), which suggests to me that IF there’s something broken in how content gets from creators to consumers, it’s not something that can be fixed by copyright.

Copyright Debates (a la Peanuts) 1 - Publishers vs. Authors
Publishers vs. Authors - click to enlarge
Copyright Debates (a la Peanuts) 1 - Big Media and You
Big Media and You - click to enlarge
Copyright Debates (a la Peanuts) 3 - The Collecting Societies
The Collecting Societies - click to enlarge

But it will be a shame if Bill C-32 is never passed, for two reasons, neither of which ironically has to do with the substance of it. The first is that the preamble to the Bill proposes that the Copyright Act be revisited every five years. That’s an important idea given how quickly technology is changing how content is created and delivered. It’s been 14 years since the last round of amendments and each added year makes the existing Act more antiquated and the changes needed more drastic and more difficult to get agreement on. The second is that there has been more consultation during this round than ever before. Even if nobody really understands what the fuss is about, we are all more aware than ever that there is such a thing as copyright and that it affects our daily lives. Having been engaged, people naturally want to see something happen.

It’s pretty clear at this point that copyright as a regulatory regime – a system of rules to guide how content moves from creator to the public – is over. It’s now all about the market, who controls flow and access, and the Bill wants to let the market work it out while also taking a few important steps to balance public access against the skew towards creators and publishers the Act was given by the Brian Mulroney government in 1988.

It’s often said that something nobody likes is probably achieving balance and that is certainly true of Bill C-32: everyone has something to gain but also to risk. That’s good enough for me. Let’s get it done and move on. Please, let Charlie kick the ball Lucy!

If you want to make your own mash up using this classic Schulz strip, click to enlarge the pic with the partly blanked out word balloons below. If you do, please send me a copy and I’ll post it here.

If you want to read the original Peanuts strip, click to enlarge the one labeled “original.” Sorry, I do not have the date or location for this; clipped it ages ago.

Copyright Debates (a la Peanuts) blank base - use this to make up your own.
Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football, original
Original strip - click to enlarge
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