Rob O’Neill on overzealous intellectual property protection

Rob O’Neill’s column, published August 4th, can be viewed here.

Some excerpts:

“…we live in a world where intellectual property rights are not only protected in law but where those protections are being extended all the time. We live in a world, for instance, where it can be illegal to circumvent technological protection mechanisms even to enforce long-standing freedoms such as fair use. We also live in a world where who owns what rights is almost always murky.

“…artists who like to sample and remix our popular culture either in music or images, are also falling foul of over-avid copyright enforcement. Then there are the innocent bystanders caught in the IP-war crossfire: witness the recent case of a woman who filmed her child dancing to a barely audible Prince track and posted it on YouTube. She didn’t have to wait long for the take-down notice even though this is almost certainly a fair use of the material.

“I’m not against copyright or other forms of intellectual property protection, but there is a grave danger our common rights are going to go the same way as common land: disappearing into private ownership. The same way public spaces have become branded spaces. The same way colours have been copyrighted or plants patented.

“There are times when the so-called protection of intellectual property is just a cover for theft, a cover for people with lots of lawyers, or even lots of guns, taking property away from people without.”