segunda-feira, 7 de junho de 2010

James Murdoch versus Biblioteca Britânica

James Murdoch acusou a British Library de agir com fins comerciais com o plano de digitalizar jornais - a biblioteca diz que "claramente isto não é verdade '

Dan Sabbagh
James Murdoch has criticised the British Library over copyright plans. Main pic: Sarah Lee for the Guardian; photomontage GNM Imaging Studio
It is 1511, and printing has only recently been introduced across Europe (it came to England in 1476 via William Caxton's handiwork). But already Albrecht Dürer, who used the new technology to print his engravings, is unhappy with some of its consequences: "Hold! You crafty ones, strangers to work, and pilferers of other men's brains. Think not rashly to lay your thievish hands upon my works. Beware! Know you not that I have a grant from the most glorious Emperor Maximillian, that not one throughout the imperial dominion shall be allowed to print or sell fictitious imitations of these engravings?"

As can be seen, battles over copyright – and the difficulties caused by piracy – have been with us since the invention of printing. Significantly, the problem emerged with the onset of a new technology – the printing press – and so it is hardly surprising in an era of disruptive technological change that battles over copyright have returned to the centre stage across the media industry. After all, it was only last month that James Murdoch chose to invoke the 1710 Statute of Anne – the first piece of copyright legislation in the world – as he criticised the British Library for trying to digitise the newspapers held in its vast collection in Colindale, north London.
Legal monopoly

Initially, in England, the monarchy controlled printing by licensing individual printers, and latterly the Stationers' Company, a legal monopoly that lapsed in 1695. It was eventually replaced by the 1710 law, which "for the encouragement of learning" chose to vest "the copies of printed books in the authors or purchasers of such copies [ie publishers]". The point of the act, as Murdoch reiterated, was to contend with piracy – or, as the statute says, to deal with those who have "taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting and Publishing … without the consent of Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to Ruin of them and their Families".

Murdoch's point – in a speech made to an audience that included his father, Rupert, and the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt – was that the 1710 act represented a sound starting point for debates about copyright today. In effect, he asserted the right of authors and publishers to be paid, as the Times introduces its £2 a week online paywall, and he went on to say it could not be right for the British Library to digitise its newspaper archive because the "public sector interest is to distribute content for near zero cost – harming the market in so doing, and then justifying increased subsidies to make up for the damage it has inflicted".

Digital technology, though, makes sticking to the 1710 settlement complex to achieve in practice – because copyright issues do not exist in a legal vacuum; they also sit in a technological context. It was once hard to copy a book, it is easy now with a scanner. If a visitor to the British Library can read a newspaper for nothing in any of its reading rooms, why is not possible, in the era of the iPad and 3G mobile, to read a newspaper for nothing digitally? Why is there no digital equivalent, in short, of the British Library? Well, for the moment, the publicly funded library is proceeding cautiously – not least because it lacks the public funding for a mass digitisation programme, which is why it has formed a partnership with the genealogy website Brightsolid, which will undertake the work.

Patrick Fleming, an associate director at the British Library, says that Murdoch's criticisms are "patently not true" because the library is treading very carefully. Its idea is to digitise newspapers from before 1900 – which should be out of copyright because the copyright in a newspaper article extends to the life of the writer plus 70 years. Meanwhile, Fleming says, "any newspaper published after 1900 will only be made available with the consent of the copyright owner". Once digitised, newspapers will be made available free "in the British Library reading rooms", matching today's print-based model, and online via "a micropayment website" that will be run by Brightsolid as it hopes to sell articles to amateur genealogists and anybody interested in history.

Plus, in spite of Murdoch's complaints, the library has, if anything, conceded even more ground than it needs to in law. Not only will none of News International's titles be digitised without permission, but in a major retreat the Times archive pre-1900 won't be digitised, Fleming says, because the Times has already done that. "The British Library purchases access to the Times online library" – and so out of copyright Times archive is kept behind a paywall, because it is difficult to copy, or even to access, piles of old newspapers.

This would, in fact, be a major victory for the newspaper group, rather than a defeat; and it reflects one of the copyright stories of the past 20 years: the great electronic databases of companies such as Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters in science, medicine and law, built up privately, and then charged back to libraries. But that ignores the fact that while the British Library has backed off, the broader public are showing no such respect – instead they're pirating music, pictures, television and film extensively.

Consumers have long worked out that a DVD drive or a print screen button is enough to copy music or photographs, and YouTube or a website enough to host them. Even the larger file sizes of film and television are proving little barrier: it was not enough to stop a copy of the workprint of Fox's film Wolverine being downloaded 14m times before the movie was released in cinemas. When Adam Boulton lost his temper with Alastair Campbell live on Sky News, it was only minutes before copies of that exchange were uploaded to YouTube (although Sky, rather than taking them down, was sending out pictures and transcripts of the verbal exchange).

Extreme behaviour

Ian Brown, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, at the University of Oxford, says: "The behaviour of consumers online now shows that existing copyright laws aren't working. And the problem is that as rights owners plough on defending their positions, they resort to more and more extreme behaviour, such as demanding that internet users get cut off after they are caught three times."

No media company can easily afford to concede any ground on copyright law – to do so is to act like a politician saying that drug policy is failing because middle class recreational use is widespread – but in practice established media have had to make concessions. In music, companies such as Universal Music are leading a push to a subscription model, and away from unit sales – in effect allowing access to a library of all the world's music for a monthly fee. Newspapers have, so far, only remained insulated from online piracy because they have not sought to charge. And it is not always clear that a hardline approach to copyright is best – as Wolverine made $373m at the box office and the buzz around Sky News was higher after the Boulton row.

At the heart of the new system of easy to find pirate media lies Google – a free-to-use index if not quite a digital library – and anybody else who spiders the web. Google makes it easy to find content, whether in copyright or not – the kind of neutrality that has prompted attacks like that from Rupert Murdoch, who told the Washington Press Club in April that "we are going to stop people like Google or Microsoft or whoever from taking stories for nothing … there is a law of copyright and they recognise it".

Google, recognising the difficulty of being the market leader, doesn't want to get into a fight with the Murdochs – and declined to comment specifically on James's views on copyright for this article. The company, though, says that its search results "reflect the nature of the web"; and while it responds to requests under US law to take down infringing content, it prefers to find commercial solutions – and argues that through its "content ID" technology on YouTube it can identify potential infringements, but also allow rights holders to take advertising revenue on copies or mash-ups of their material. Given the choice, most rights holders go for the money rather than enforcing a ban.

There are those who believe that the 1710 law – which in any event only allowed authors a 14-year copyright term – gets the balance wrong. Brown says it is appropriate to talk not of "an exclusive right to copy, but rather an exclusive right to commercialise" – meaning that anybody can take a copy of a song, but they have no right to sell it to others.

But, in an era when content ownership is as murky as the ink on Caxton's press, there doesn't seem any clear solution to deal with breach of copyright in the short term.

Fonte: The Guardian

+ Biblioteca Britânica criará acervo digital de jornais

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