Symposium on alternatives to copyright

I managed to acquire a ticket for the Bits of Freedom/XS4All organized symposium on Alternatives to Copyright after all.

The two main alternatives named were levies, which already exist in the Netherlands, and DRM, which is more or less the road the E.U. wants to take.

The day was closed with a debate among four parliamentarians. They started their debate in true political style, by using a lot of words to say exactly nothing.

However, Erik Huizer, part-time professor of Internet Applications and director of many things at NOB, lead the debate skillfully, and whether it was because of him or because the politicians were willing to speak out, the more remarkable statements of the day came from this part of the symposium:

– State Secretary Piet Hein Donner does not much feel like discussing the future of copyright. According to a letter published two days before the symposium, he feels things can stay pretty much the same as they are now. The debaters unanimously disagreed with him, and especially Donner’s fellow party member Nicolien Vroonhoven was adamant that the government and parliament should go ahead as agreed before, and study what changes need to be made to copyright in the digital era.

– The two members of right wing parties felt that less weight should be given to privacy in light of DRM systems: “Consumers are not defenseless; they are capable of making their own choices.” The left, however, was doubtful; in reality, Kees Vendrik of the Green Party posited, the consumer’s freedom to engage in a DRM enforced contract with huge corporations is a lopsided affair.

It was of course the opening speaker of the day, Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, who succesfully invoked a consumer’s right to privacy when winning court cases for Kazaa and Zoekmp3.

– Finally, surprisingly all four parliamentarians present felt that television programmes that have been paid for out of public funds should be more or less copyright free. The members of parliament promised to ask the government to make this happen.

Links and sources: Dutch parliamentarians favour releasing public broadcast images into public domain (Digital Media Europe, English), Privacy belangrijk? Dan maar geen internet (Webwereld, Dutch), Symposium ‘Alternatieve modellen voor auteursrecht’ (, Dutch).

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