Citizens

The thing that perhaps irritated me the most during the otherwise excellent debates at the Copy=Right festival my provider XS4All (Echelon keyword bingo!) organised last year, is that of the many stakeholders mentioned, the citizens were neglected. Now that’s funny, because the state that ordains the law we’re discussing, supposedly does so in name of and for the ultimate benefit of citizens.

It’s not just the Copy=Right? Festival where this disdain for the citizen was shown, it was just so noticeable there, because many stakeholders were present. Author, publisher, reader: in the end these are just roles that citizens take on, and most if not all citizens have performed each role many times in their lives.

Copyright law was introduced to protect citizens that write from citizens that publish.

Now it could be argued that times have changed and that nowadays citizens that write are much more threatened by citizens that read; but how has that changed the position of citizens that publish? How and when did they turn from a lot so immoral that a special law had to be written against them, to the guardians of the citizens that write? Who, to borrow a phrase, appointed the fox to guard the henhouse?

In my opinion, there is no evidence that publishers have stopped being the enemy. Any politician who lets the fox into the henhouse should seriously reconsider if he’s fit for representing citizens. Not because citizens that publish wouldn’t deserve the same protections as other citizens, but because citizens that publish still have enough rotten apples among them to be eyed with supreme suspicion.

There’s another thing: all citizens that read are winners. Not all citizens that write are, nor are all citizens that publish.* There’s a reason for this: a lot more people are capable of appreciating the fruits of good authorship then of creating these fruits. The law should reflect this, and does (did) with the copyright lottery, which says that good writers (and publishers) have a higher chance of getting money than bad writers. Some citizens that publish and some that write want to skew this state. Perhaps that is fine, but why should that be done in such a way that those who read, lose? In the balance, the publishers are a minority that already has gotten much more than they have a claim to.

*) I tend to believe that an activity can be its own reward, but not everybody shares that belief.

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