Cory Doctorow questions current protections

Copyright laws and Digital Rights Management schemes meant to encourage content creators are instead undermining artists’ rights and curtailing individual freedom — and are doomed to fail anyway.

That was the message of author and Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow in the opening keynote at the Siggraph computer graphics conference in Vancouver.

In an impassioned plea for new laws that do a better job of getting artists paid for their work, Doctorow argued that under current laws, especially the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, “DRM companies have more of a say over our works than we (artists).”

He noted that if artists who now sell content through Apple’s content stores decide to go to a new platform, they can’t give consumers the right to take their content to that new platform.

“Your fans have to either abandon you or have to have parallel, incompatible libraries,” he said. Apple is “not the creator, it’s not the investor, it’s the DRM provider.”

Doctorow also argued that attempts to make intermediaries, like Internet service providers and YouTube, responsible for pirated content on their networks are “absolutely backwards.”

He cited efforts to make YouTube remove its privacy flags because they can be used for pirated content. “I use YouTube privacy to send video of my toddler in the tub in my flat in London to my mother in Toronto,” he said. “Why should my capacity to conduct my personal life in private be subjugated to Viacom’s business model?” he asked.

He attacked DRM software that imposes surveillance on users, often taking over parts of consumers’ computers without their consent. The surveillance and control of those schemes amount to an impingement on personal freedom, he said, and if being a creator meant having to live with them, he would “get a real job.”

“I want to be free more than I want to be a writer. I want my daughter to be free, I want my nation to be free,” he said.

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