When the ‘so, what did you get up to this weekend’ question comes up over that Monday morning cup of tea, my answer will have to be, ‘well, on Friday night I went to a talk about copyright’. This will invariably lead to my colleagues’’ eyes glazing over and a change in subject. But when the keynote speaker is sci-fi writer, digital rights advocate and co-founder of Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow the idea of going to a talk about copyright becomes a whole different kind of night.
I am no expert in copyright or digital content but I do know that as technology changes providers of information need to stay abreast of what is and isn’t happening and how it impacts our users. Issues around the provision of content in the digital age are ever changing and many decisions go on behind closed doors. The thrust of Cory’s talk was that third parties (governments along with big business) are trying to control both the rights of content creators and consumers. And that the creators and consumers will, in the end, not come out on top. These third party intermediaries are trying to control what we can do with content (books, music, films) through digital locks and legislation under the guise of protecting the rights of the creator, but the end result is space where artists have no say in how their products are produced, distributed and consumed. The message is this; anytime someone locks up something you own and does not give you the key, you will always lose out. But Cory tells this dystopian story with much more skill that I can. Luckily there is a recording of the talk (90 minutes) that is worth a listen.