Last evening was a delight, with Michael Geist delivering the annual Hart House Lecture. Michael spoke to a sold-out crowd on Our Own Creative Land: Cultural Monopoly and the trouble with copyright. He regaled the audience with the unfortunate tale of sad Sam, and wowed people with what he called not the good news story, but the great news story: how the Internet has enabled an explosion of creativity and collaboration. He went on to suggest that we ain't seen nuttin' yet by comparing the Internet of 1995 to the Internet of 2005, and casting ahead to 2015 and 2025. What has emerged is a new group of stakeholders, namely the vast legions of people who now have voice, representation, and the ability to participate in what I call the new mass media - not media for the masses, but media by the masses. This means that traditional stakeholders - the so-called creative industries, publishers, industry lobby groups, tariff cartels, and the like - will not be "entitled" to the type of influence they have enjoyed in the past in the formation of public policy.
Geist called for an approach to balance in intellectual property law - copyright, certainly, but equally applying to patent law as well - that contemplates not only the requisite balance between creators and users (since all creators are users, and all users are creators). New policy must understand that innovation, creativity, the continued emergence of culture and our fundamental freedoms (like freedom of speech) are all at stake. Moreover, as we are seeing manifest in the United States dominance of the WIPO agenda, the ability of emerging countries to survive and thrive is increasingly at stake with policies that overwhelmingly favour those who already enjoy privileged access, and privileged protection.
All in all, a great show. Links to resources related to the lecture are available.
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