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Copyright: what’s it all about?

November 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Copyright: what’s it all about?
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As of Sunday we have answered this question. Well, not quite; the day did, however, lead to interesting insights and ideas on the past, present and future of copyright. I was delighted to hear that it was a few Irish lads that started the whole ruckus. Things really kicked off in the 6th century and copyright, although lacking now in literal battles, has continued to be as contentious an issue as it ever was. Copyright has over 1000 years of legal tradition that was first contested through the Brehon Laws between St. Colmcille and St. Finian.

The speakers present were Ronan Sheehan, Dr.Aileen Fyfe and Stephen Taylor. It was, of course, chaired by our own Dr. Padmini Ray-Murray.

Ronan was truly charismatic to listen to and I think drew everyone in the room right into the bones of the issue. Something that shone through is that copyright was not considered theft but was infringement of a civil right. This is something that is coming to the forefront of the discussion on copyright again today.

Aileen then took us through the history of copyright here in the UK during the 18th and 19th centuries. 1709 saw the first British Copyright Act, officially called the Act for the Encouragement of Learning. Copyright length has varied through the years, Aileen’s ability to remember the length and times of these variations was very impressive.

Stephen Taylor dealt with the more modern aspects of Copyright. He particularly referenced the Digital Economy Act which is the big 21st century Act. Stephen was very interesting and easy to listen to and also had a few fun anecdotes to share. The whole idea of blaming ISPs came up and is rather contentious.

I loved the Irish references that were scattered throughout Ronan’s opinions. It was interesting to hear of Piggley Pooh, and I am now surprised that I’d never heard of this case.

I think that most people present seemed to understand the value of copyright but did not really think that the terms that copyrights are valid for are sustainable or useful. This has made me realise that I approve of copyright but only think that it should last the lifetime of the author/creator. The whole issue seems to be the question: What is the commodity? If people can answer this then maybe we will know.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the speakers, and as Padmini led us in questions and debate I think that a great balance was struck between the three speakers and their audience.

Catriona Cox