Wednesday, February 13, 2008
What is a "balanced approach" to copyright reform?
Everyone who advocates one form of copyright reform or another says that they want a "balanced approach." Who is opposed to balance, after all? But what exactly does balance mean? What interests are being balanced?
We view copyright balance as finding ways for copyright holders to receive fair compensation, encouraging them to create new amazing songs, movies, and software, while allowing consumers and businesses the right to use, enjoy, make fun of, mash-up, experiment, play around with, and otherwise innovate with those same copyrighted works.
Here in Canada, where there is an ongoing debate about how to best implement the WIPO Copyright Treaty, Google has joined with a number of other Canadian and international companies who have a shared vision of balanced copyright. The Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright has issued a two-page position paper calling for a "balanced 'package' approach for a strong Canadian copyright regime." Admittedly not the snappiest title, but even so the document includes an important list of issues that the Canadian government ought to consider as integral to copyright reform.
The coalition's proposed package of reforms includes, among other things, expanding Canada's fair dealing provisions – permitting commonly accepted uses of copyrighted works including: parody, mash-ups, time-shifting and place-shifting. More importantly, the coalition is calling for fair dealing to be made more flexible. Canada's current approach to fair dealing ossifies the tiny and exhaustive list of exceptions to copyright and as such stifles cultural and technological innovation.
This balanced approach to copyright reform is the same approach that we follow in practice. Every day Google helps content owners unlock value in their works. Every day Google helps consumers express themselves in unexpected, innovative ways. Flexible exceptions and limitations, which encourage creativity and innovation, are integral to balanced copyright law.