In recent weeks a number of leaked documents has made it crystal clear how a cluster of companies (hereafter referred to as the "copyright industry") warns off any threat to its commercial interests. The copyright industry consists of all those companies whose business models are based on the most extreme neo-liberal interpretation of copyright. In this interpretation, the ability to make money by endlessly re-selling the same piece of intellectual property is considered more important not only than democratic control over the creation of laws, but also than basic civil rights such as the principle of innocent until proven guilty.
Where copyright once began in the 18th century with a period of 14 years, in the 19th and 20th centuries it extended to 70 years after the date of death of the author. It is not entirely clear how copyright 70 years after the death of a creative person can encourage more creativity (the original purpose of copyright). There is no evidence that more culture is created by endless renewal and reinforcement of copyright; indeed, there are many indications that it actively blocks both new creativity and the preservation of existing culture.
First there are the now infamous Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations. ACTA is an international treaty designed to combat the counterfeiting of branded products and other forms of copyright infringement. Although citizens of participating countries must adhere to this treaty on pain of subsequent fines or worse, they had no say in or even oversight of the treaty's creation. Companies from the copyright industry appear to have had a free hand in developing the content of ACTA. Citizens and their elected representatives were excluded and nobody will say why. That hardly creates trust.
Now, in a report to the US government, it appears that the overarching pro-copyright lobbying organization, the International Intellectual Property Association (IIPA), wants to place a number of countries on a special watch list, because the governments of these countries actively promote the use of open source software. The deployment of open source is apparently comparable to copyright infringement, protectionism and terrorism because it threatens the ability of proprietary software companies to make money. The logic of this is so distorted that you have to read it three times to believe that someone in his/her mind could write this in 2010. How nice that a Dutch caretaker government promoting open source can simultaneously be in the 'coalition of the willing' and the 'axis of evil'.
The whole course of events raises the question of whether we, as citizens, can still have any rational discussion with these interest groups in the hope of reaching a reasonable consensus. A workable balance between different interests requires that both parties follow certain basic rules eg to respect the democratic state. If, as in this case, lobby groups are so crude as to operate outside the normal frameworks, they leave the other party in the debate no choice but to do the same. That other party is we, the citizens, and we are many. And because we are many, we can innovate more quickly to circumvent any technical or legal barrier. In every public debate on copyright, the burden of proof is always put on citizens who believe that things should be a little less extreme. The copyright industry and its lobbyists have never been to able demonstrate the social utility of the endless tightening of copyright. An industry that desires legal protection for it's businessmodel, is it not reasonable that it shows society that this protection is of value to society? And if it will not or cannot... why should citizens give credence to the industry and its unilaterally-asserted 'rights'?
The copyright industry seems headed for a total war against its own clients, with centuries-old civil rights simply set aside in secret negotiations. Obviously honest citizens will first try to change unreasonable laws through the usual democratic channels. However, if these paths are obviously and actively blocked, then they will fall back to civil disobedience. If that does not help, stronger measures may follow. Fortunately in this case civil disobedience is extremely fun to do; download, upload, copy, share, crack, jailbreak and remix, until to all members of the IIPA either wake up to new realities or go bankrupt.
And then we hold a huge party. With great music of course.