Copyright is "more important than it has ever been," but has the copyright debate been hijacked by anti-copyright forces, including those in the tech sector? Yes, according to Olav Stokkmo, chief executive of The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO). Speaking on a panel in Hall 8.0 at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Stokkmo spoke about the state of the copyright, and argued that publishers and creators must make a better effort to educate the public about the importance of strong copyright protection.
"Copyright and the copyright sector is generally acknowledged as a key driver to the development of culture, diversity, knowledge, and the economy," Stokkmo noted. But while many people acknowledge the need to pay publishers and creators, the reality is, in the Internet age, few want to pay, he said. "We need to expose that contradiction."
Stressing that the future economy will be a "knowledge economy" Stokkmo said it was crucial to offer people better information about copyright, noting that the public, thanks to the Internet, is finally engaged with a subject once considered too wonky or specialized. To that end, Stokkmo spoke about an IFFRO campaign launched at Frankfurt to provide information, a web site dubbed CopyrightLink.org, offering news, legislative updates, and "useful facts and details on the value of the protection of literary and artistic works."
"Information is so important," Stokkmo said, alleging that those who have "dominated the debate" so far "have not been accurate," and have negatively influenced the way the public sees copyright. "I hope that we will make it possible for people to know where they can find accurate information on copyright."
Stokkmo was joined on the panel by author Robert Levine, author of Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture.
Levine too bemoaned the state of the copyright debate today.
"People tend to see this as a conflict between authors and audience," he said. "I reject that. I think it is a conflict between authors and illegitimate distributors." Levine said he had no problem with the person who wanted to read his book for free, and that he hoped to accommodate everyone who wants to access his work. "The problem I have with with people who distribute it for free, and make money from it, and build businesses on it, and don't compensate me."
Stokkmo seized on that theme, acknowledging that any solution to the piracy problem relied on publishers and creators enabling people "to access and share knowledge and content," suggesting that collective licensing was the key.
The panelists acknowledged, however, that enforcement of copyright online is a difficult balancing act.
"Enforcement has to be combined with providing reasonable access, and legal access," Stokkmo offered. Levine agreed. He said that efforts to date have tended to focus on consumers, but that focusing on illegal businesses was the better plan of attack. "Get the worst offenders, pirate sites offline, block them," he said. "There has to an international way to do that."