THE WORK IS MINE, BUT CAN YOU COPY IT?

 

The copyright of the majority of literary works establish that all rights (to copy, modify, digitalize, or to spread the work in any way) are reserved to the holder of the copyright, and any other person has to ask the owner for permission in order to perform any of these actions (but it is allowed to copy the work for a private use without profit, and certain uses related to education, investigation or library borrowing).

 

Today�s technological reality (access generalized to the Internet and teams to copy and create, digitalization of all types of works...) has produced a change of context. If the copyright used to protect mainly an editor and/or an author before another editor who would want to copy and sell the work without paying the copyright, it now intends to protect the authors or the holders of the rights from �pirate� users.   

 

 

Conventional view

 

From a conventional point of view, whoever copies a book or any other art work stops buying it, which would mean that the author will not receive remuneration for his/her work through copyright, which generally represents 10% of the sale price to the public without VAT. Therefore, if the phenomena of copying is generalised, the cultural and artistic production will decrease. This argument leads to the defense of the traditional all rights reserved.

 

In this line and considering the change of context we were referring to, the interpretation and the application of the law has developed in the sense of restricting the rights of the public. For instance, the copies made in a photocopying machine of public use (library, company...) or in a copyshop are considered to be non-private copies with profit; therefore, these businesses have to pay a licence in order to make photocopies every year, as well as the compensation tax, paid when buying devices such as a photocopying machine. A European rule obliges to charge a tax when borrowing in libraries as a concept of copyright, which will be paid by the users or the libraries themselves; in some countries they still have not applied this rule.

 

This restrictive interpretation of the copyright is the one adopted by most of the culture industry and the copyright management societies. That is the reason why they put technological obstacles in the copies (anticopy systems in DVDs, copy locators in the Internet...), finance awareness campaigns and pressure in favour of a more restrictive legislation.

 

 

Copyleft vision

 

In the copyleft vision, the author continues to earn a percentage of the sales and continues to exercise his moral right to decide how the work will be disseminated. The difference is that the copyright is not systematically reserved, but it can transfer one (or all) rights to the public: some rights reserved. Specifically, it allows for everyone to copy, distribute, read, visualize, hear, etc., the work, both private and public, without asking for permission if done without profit.

 

The intention of this way of administrating the copyright is to �free� the culture, facilitate the access. It looks, once and for all, for a balance between the copyright and the rights of the public in a way that both parts are benefited.

 

Is culture in danger with the copyleft vision?

 

The copyleft vision maintains, in comparison to the conventional vision, that it is the restriction of the rights what is detrimental to most authors, as well as to the public and the cultural spreading in general.

 

As a matter of fact, few authors can live out of the copyright, only the most famous ones. A very small fraction of the published books (0.5% in the case of Spain) arrives to the 15.000 sold copies. The big best sellers reach 20. From the greater part of titles just a few hundreds are sold. The medium price of the books is not very hight: 12 euros in the case of Spain, 7 in the case of Turkey. The author receives generally 10% of this price of sale to the public: let�s say 1 euro per sold copy. The greater majority of authors, therefore, can hope, if everything goes well, to credit the sum of 1.000 euros per year per book published. This isn�t much... And authors of a substantial success  (15.000 copies) would receive 15.000 euros per year; also not a fortune. For most authors, the main sources of income come from activities that generate the prestige of being the author of a book (conferences, press articles...) and from the private or public sponsorship (orders, grants...). It is not true, then, that the income for the sale of copies is indispensable for cultural creation.

 

From another side, the free spreading of a work does not need to have an impact on the dicrease of the sales, and the contrary can actually happen. A pattern of behaviour can be: I downloaded this book from the Internet. Hadn�t I found it this way, I would probably never know it existed or I wouldn�t have read it. I liked it so much that I bought it in order to read it more comfortably and I passed it on to two friends; one of them has bought it as well. The fact that the full work can be seen opens many possibilities for the promotion (web links, review profusion, hearing about it from someone, public use of the work, quoting fragments in other publications...). This way, the free circulation of a work can end up generating not less, but more sales.

 

The free difusion of the works and the general possibility to access them generate intellectual and cultural stimulation resulting in more production and in more people interested in the cultural production. The web sites where photos, music, videos, etc. can be downloaded are full of creations.