The European Union has just passed new copyright laws. How well we’re all now protected, of course we are. A major change being how derivative works are treated. So much so that one of the major “meme” sites is now to close down. Doesn’t that make us all richer? Doesn’t it encourage that flowering of creation which is the very point of copyright laws?
Swiflie users who log on are shown a splash screen indicating the service will close for good on November 17.
Zero news on the interwebs about this yet, but my guess is that it has to do with overbearing regulation from the EU (which Swiflie has had trouble dealing with over the last several months).
Swiflie, you see, is a meme posting and reposting site. To me, it was the best follower to the defunct, but once super popular, Yik Yak.
But, to the EU, reposting memes is a copyright violation.
If you were an anal retentive, if you were a federast, but I repeat myself, you would see people posting material that might, conceivably, be the copyright of another. Therefore this is right and just, they shouldn’t do that. You might even be stupid enough to make the site, not the poster, legally liable.
The EU meme ban in a nutshell pic.twitter.com/0QF7LbqoZA
— surreal entertainment (@s_entainment) October 30, 2018
But as the professor points out, they mean well so that’s OK, right?
Except it isn’t of course. For they’ve failed the basic test of understanding what copyright is for. It’s not some God Given Right to be able to profit from innovation or creation. It’s a purely pragmatic response to a public goods problem. If people can’t make money out of creation then fewer people – fewer than we might like – will create to our general poverty. Thus we invent, entirely out of the air, this property right in copyright in order to encourage creation.
All such systems, copyright, patents, suffer from a definitional problem. We want to encourage creation, that’s the point. But any form of protection is going to discourage some set of derivative creation. OK, so Mickey Mouse is copyright, but does that include the ears? How about sticking the Mickey ears on that photo of Che Guevara? That does, after all, make a great t-shirt and a somewhat at least serious political point. It’s certainly satire. Our definitional problem being well, how do we still encourage original creation by protecting it while still gaining all that derivative creation? They’re both creation, right? Both things we want to encourage.
And that’s where the EU fails in this. We’re seeing an effective ban on the display of that derivative creation. The new copyright laws are counter-productive. Such laws are there to encourage creation, this flavour of them is banning it. QED, the law’s wrong. But then constituting the third rate of every nation into a Parliament to rule a continent is unlikely to work well, is it?