Anti-copyright refers to the complete or partial opposition to prevalent copyright laws. Copyright is known as the owner’s right for copies to be only made by the owner or with his/her authorisation in form of a licence.
The classic argument for copyright is the view that granting developers temporarymonopolies over their works encourages further development and creativity by giving the developer a source of income; normally copyright is enforced within a framework of the Berne Convention, instituted by Victor Hugo and first enacted in 1886. A central anti-copyright argument is that copyright has never been of net benefit to society and instead serves to enrich a few at the expense of creativity. Some anti-copyright groups may question the logic of copyright on economic and cultural grounds. Furthermore, in the context of the Internet and Web 2.0, it can be argued that copyright law needs to be adapted to modern information technology.
Anti-copyright groups and scholars
Groups advocating the abolition of copyright
Pirate Cinema and groups like The League of Noble Peers advance more radical arguments, opposing copyright per se. A number of anti-copyright groups have recently emerged in the argument around peer-to-peer file sharing, digital freedom, and freedom of information; these include the Association des audionautes and theKopimism Church of New Zealand.
In 2003, Eben Moglen, a professor of Law at Columbia University, published the dotCommunist Manifesto, which re-interpreted the Communist Manifesto by Marx in the light of the development of computer technology and the internet; much of the re-interpreted content discussed copyright law and privilege in Marxist terms.
Recent developments related to BitTorrent and peer-to-peer file-sharing have been termed by media commentators as “copyright wars”, with The Pirate Bay being referred to as “the most visible member of a burgeoning international anti-copyright—or pro-piracy—movement”. One well-publicized instance of electronic civil disobedience(ECD) in the form of large scale intentional copyright infringement occurred on February 24, 2004, in an event called Grey Tuesday. Activists intentionally violatedEMI‘s copyright of The White Album by distributing MP3 files of a mashup album calledThe Grey Album, in an attempt to draw public attention to copyright reform issues and anti-copyright ideals. Reportedly over 400 sites participated including 170 that hosted the album with some protesters stating that The Grey Album illustrates a need for revisions in copyright law to allow sampling under fair use of copyrighted material, or proposing a system of fair compensation to allow for sampling.
Groups advocating changes to copyright law
French group Association des audionautes is not anti-copyright per se, but proposes a reformed system for copyright enforcement and compensation. Aziz Ridouan, co-founder of the group, proposes for France to legalise peer-to-peer file sharing and to compensate artists through a surcharge on Internet service provider fees (i.e. analternative compensation system). Reportedly, major music companies have equated Ridouan’s proposal with legitimizing piracy. In January 2008, seven Swedish members of parliament from the Moderate Party (part of the governing coalition), authored a piece in a Swedish tabloid calling for the complete decriminalization offilesharing; they wrote that “Decriminalizing all non-commercial file sharing and forcing the market to adapt is not just the best solution. It’s the only solution, unless we want an ever more extensive control of what citizens do on the Internet.”
Groups advocating using existing copyright law
Groups that argue for using existing copyright legal framework with special licences to achieve their goals, include the copyleft movement and Creative Commons. Creative Commons is not anti-copyright per se, but argues for use of more flexible and open copyright licences within existing copyright law. Creative Commons takes the position that there is an unmet demand for flexibility that allows the copyright owner to release work with only “some rights reserved” or even “no rights reserved.” According to Creative Commons many people do not regard default copyright as helping them in gaining the exposure and widespread distribution they want. Creative Commons argue that theirlicenses allow entrepreneurs and artists to employ innovative business models rather than all-out copyright to secure a return on their creative investment.