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The Debate of Copyright and Job Creation

March 9, 2011

There are been suggestions that by not protecting copyright, jobs are being lost. As a counter to that claim, Rick Falkvinge writes that given that open and free content drives demand for electronic devices and given the jobs this area creates, it’s better to be less rather than more restrictive on copyright:

Executive summary: for every job lost (or killed) in the copyright industry due to nonenforcement of copyright, 11.8 jobs are created in electronics wholesale, electronics manufacturing, IT, or telecom industries — or even the copyright-inhibited part of the creative industries. A lot of people have pointed out the laughability of the copyright industry’s claim that 1.2 million jobs will be lost until 2015 if not harsh measures are taken to enforce copyright. But assuming a scenario where that happened, when the copyright-inhibited industries are factored into this calculation, a loss of 1.2 million jobs in the copyright industries translate to 14.2 million gained jobs in the copyright-inhibited industry sectors, for a net gain of 13 million jobs in Europe.

The figures used by many promoting stronger copyright laws are often subject to serious criticism. In addition there is no definitive evidence that strong copyright protects jobs. However I don’t think the matrix of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ on the copyright debate is that simple. What is needed is the creation of an eco-system of media where one feeds the other. The lack of financial remuneration for creators is a problem as there will needs to be ways of funding original content. However pushing for copyright laws does not seem to be an answer to this. Not only that but there is an argument that copyright’s cousin – patent law – is also stifling innovation;

This orgy for lawyers [in patent battles] is partly a result of the explosion of the market for smart-phones. IDC, a market-research firm, expects that 270m smart-phones will be sold this year: 55% more than in 2009. “It has become worthwhile to defend one’s intellectual property,” says Richard Windsor of Nomura, an investment bank.

Yet there is more than this going on. Smart-phones are not just another type of handset, but fully-fledged computers, which come loaded with software and double as digital cameras and portable entertainment centres. They combine technologies from different industries, most of them patented. Given such complexity, sorting out who owns what requires time and a phalanx of lawyers.

The convergence of different industries has also led to a culture clash. When it comes to intellectual property, mobile-phone firms have mostly operated like a club. They jointly develop new technical standards: for example, for a new generation of wireless networks. They then license or swap the patents “essential” to this standard under “fair and reasonable” conditions.

Who is suing who in smart phone patent battles (from economist.com)

Who is suing who in smart phone patent battles (from economist.com)

To me this suggests that the battle over copyright (and patents) has become much more than simply a battle of rights – it’s now being used as a proxy-business method of attacking competitors.  The debate is often ignoring the implications of whether or not the technology is even possible to control. A much more wide ranging and serious debate is needed and not one purely based on vested interests.

Hat-tip to Michel, also posted on P2P Foundation blog.

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