Op-Ed: The latest NUJ whine about Copyright

Posted Oct 30, 2012 by Alexander Baron
The National Union of Journalists is lobbying MPs to support what it calls decent copyright laws, which means? Journalists want to get paid whenever people use their own work, but don't want to pay anyone else for using theirs.
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Most of the Oct/Nov 2012 issue of the FREELANCE, the local newsletter for the London Freelance branch, is taken up with the issue of copyright, including an article (read whine) by Mike Holderness, Please write to your MP now on copyright. A similar plea has been published on-line; the offending document can currently be found here with a great deal more in the same vein. The bottom line is that the government is seeking to make it easier for others to use other people's work legally.
This is part of ERR, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently being discussed by the government which is asking for public commentary.
While it is only right and proper that the creator of an original work be properly credited, be that work a news article, feature, a book or even a humble limerick, the reality is that in this digital age copyright is dead, at least as far as the Internet is concerned, or if it isn't quite dead, it is more trouble than it is worth. This is bad news for the few, at the same time it is good news for everyone. The reason for this is not far to seek, higher prices benefit a few producers, be it higher prices for sugar, potatoes, petrol, or whatever. But lower prices benefit everyone; this is because we are all consumers, every single one of us, while not all of us produce (children, pensioners, etc), and most of us who do produce, don't produce that much.
So, if we all get something free, genuinely free, we all benefit enormously. What though about those who produce? and it isn't only journalists who are feeling the pinch, but publishers. Next year, the Toronto Star newspaper is introducing a paywall, following many other big names. The paper can't afford to give away news for free, and by the same token, most ordinary people are not going to pay for news they can get free elsewhere, however much they may like a particular newspaper. How long can this go on?
Who says it should when there is a way out? The Internet produces enormous wealth, and it does so, so totally unobtrusively that nowadays none of us gives this a second thought, but sit down for a minute and work out how much money you spend on the Internet.
You can exclude your computer, desktop or mobile phone from these calculations because you would own these things anyway. In practice, all most of us pay is our ISP subscription, and for that you get:
a free mail service - send a dozen, a hundred or ten thousand letters a day if you wish. Think how much that saves businesses.
All the books you can read from the Internet Archive and many other on-line repositories and publishers
Free news: text, audio and video
Free documentaries
Free feature films
Free sports
Free music
Free education
If you work from home, you are getting in effect free transport
And so on.
How much does that add up to per day, per month, per year?
All this is new wealth, but the producers of this new wealth are not being paid, so the simple, indeed the logical solution, is to dispense with unworkable copyright laws, with Quantitative Easing nonsense and similar freebies for the banks, and to pay the creators of this new wealth directly.