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Copyright, Creative Commons and Libre Culture in New Zealand

February 4, 2014

On Jan 30 – Feb 1, 2014, I attended a conference on “Surveillance, Copyright, Privacy: The End of the Open Internet?” at my home campus (the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand) and delivered the presentation below. I’ve embedded an audio recording (32′ 40″), which you can play as you manually advance through the slides (You can also download the PDF). Using TweetDeck, I lined up a set of 33 Tweets to be auto-Tweeted at one-minute intervals as I talked. The Tweets contain the main points and links to the websites that I discussed (saving people the trouble of copying down urls or looking up websites as they listened). There is much that I didn’t cover, including a detailed discussion about Libre or Free Culture, and the ways in which Creative Commons and “Free” content can be commodified and effectively removed from the commons. I hope to cover these issues in a later post.

Abstract

Copyright, Creative Commons and Libre Culture in New Zealand

Dr Mark McGuire, University of Otago, New Zealand

In 2001, Lawrence Lessig pointed out that, when considering of the ownership, regulation and governance of the virtual commons, we must take into account the “physical” layer, the “logical” or “code” layer, and the “content” layer, which includes the text, images, music, animations, movies and other digital material accessed over the internet. In an effort to free up the “content” layer, creativecommons.org went online in 2002, allowing individuals to attach “some rights reserved” licences to their work. This development was in response to changes in US copyright laws that the Creative Commons founders (including Lessig) argued hindered access to creative works. Since then, the Creative Commons Licenses have been ported to over fifty jurisdictions, including New Zealand.

As in the US, copyright has become more restrictive in New Zealand. The introduction of the “Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011” enables owners of copyrighted works to penalize individuals for violating their copyright through online file sharing without providing adequate protection from unfair prosecution. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that New Zealand is negotiating with the US and nine other countries, could extend the length of copyright of creative work from the life of the author plus 50 years after his or her death, by a further 20 years.

As Yochai Benkler notes (2006), formal institutions are working to extend the scope and reach of excusive rights over cultural resources, and the primary countervailing force against exclusivity is the cultural and social response represented by the nascent “free culture” movement and the growing individual practice of sharing work with others to create a domain of free resources for common use. In this paper, I discuss institutional efforts to strengthen copyright in New Zealand and discuss the use of Creative Commons licenses as an alternative.

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