Just read a post on the Google Print copyright debacle which reminded me I got a bit tipsy last night and had a vigourous and interesting converstation with a barrister who specialises in intellectual property. We sort of have a similar conversation every time we meet, but this time he put a little more energy into deconstructing Stallman’s argument which was quite interesting.
In UK law, most cases proceed from the initial assumption that any and all copying is illegal. In other words, the debate isn’t about what you do with your copy, wether commercial (record a film from the back row and distribute copies for money) or not (tape a cd you just bought so your wife can play it on the car stereo). This is crazy as most people will copy stuff without even being aware of it (do you use a photocopier in your office?). Clearly, this law was written at a time when a copy was a difficult and expensive thing to produce–it made sense to say that doing so intentionally made you a premeditating and determined criminal.
For me, this reinforces the urgent need for a review of copyright law. In the meantime, I will continue to exercise my fair-use rights as a consumer with whatever means are at my disposal.