Competition and copyright

I am trying to remember what I heard or read a Dutch copyright lawyer say about using the Dutch Agency for Competition to take the edge off of some of copyright’s more heinous effects. There is an agency called NMA that must make sure monopolies are not abused.

Googling for the Dutch words for competition (“mededinging”) and copyright (“auteursrecht”), I stumble upon only three (types of) cases in which copyright and the right to free competition clash.

One is where publishers have a lock on the market and use it to force authors to transfer their copyrights to them. Composer Tony Eyk complains to parliament about how all broadcasting corporations engage in this practice, so that a composer who wants to write for Dutch national television has no way to do so competitively.

Two is where representatives of copyright holders enforce copyright even against the wishes of those copyright holders. This is an old complaint that is often aimed at BUMA/STEMRA, the collection agency for composers and performing artists. BUMA/STEMRA claims (IIRC) that it cannot do its work if it has to start taking the wishes of individual authors into account.

The most recent case that I know of is where my ISP, XS4All, gave a birthday party which included a symposium on copyright. It had agreements with all performing artists that their performances could be downloaded for free, but BUMA/STEMRA disagreed. XS4All filed a complaint with the NMA.

Three is the situation where copyright is claimed to maintain a monopoly. A case that has been dragging on for years and that again involves the broadcasting corporations is that of the TV program listings. Broadcasting corporations claim they own the program listings. This is important to them, because they tend to get a lot of income from publishing TV guides. However, so far courts have concluded these listings lack the amount of originality needed to create a copyright.

None of these three cases seem to show up the heinous effects of copyright as a monopoly though. #1 seems to indicate that copyright is sometimes not a large enough club, #3 seems to suggest that copyright sometimes is so large a club, that organizations will wish to employ it before exploring other options, and #2 seems to be orthogonal to the whole question: AFAIK (but IANAL), the law explicitely grants authors (and performers?) the right to negotiate outside the collection agencies, so I don’t really see a problem there. Lawsuit, let BUMA/STEMRA pay, and hope that they learn from it and try to get procedures in place that will allow the authors more freedom to negotiate.

One response to “Competition and copyright”

  1. Copyright vs. competition: Fodder for anti-trust agencies?
    Copyright vs. competition…

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