In defense of the everyday creator

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Let's legalise everyday creations
Licentie

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. COMMUNIA is happy to participate in this initiative and ready to share his thoughts on the topic of today: “21st Century Creators”.

The principle of supporting 21st century creators is the idea that ‘copyright law should account for the interests of all creators, not just those backed by traditional copyright industries. YouTube creators, remixers, fan artists and independent musicians (among others) are all part of the community of creators that encourage cultural progress and innovation.’

Technological developments in the 21st century have opened many new possibilities for creators to create and distribute their works. With digital technologies and the web, it’s super easy to copy and share creativity. It’s also simple for users to take and share the work of others without their permission. And while some of this copying and sharing could likely be copyright infringement, there are other types of sharing that should be permitted. The problem is that our law are sometimes ill-equipped to make a distinction. For example, everyday harmless creations on the internet are an infringement of copyright, such as creating a funny meme based on a copyrighted work. We believe that these sort of everyday actions—including remixing or transforming existing works into new creativity—should be possible without breaking the law

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the different types of sharing.User-generated content has a bad reputation. User-generated content includes a wide variety of works such as memes, tweets, and blogs. It’s often mistakenly associated with piracy: ‘file-to-file sharing’ of copyrighted content on online platforms.You can think of entire movies being uploaded online. This kind of content is not and should not be allowed. It is an infringement of copyright and it harms creators.

However, we should distinguish piracy from user-generated content that unlike piracy does deserve protection. There are two categories of user-generated content. The first category is original content—created without using others’ copyrighted works, which is then uploaded to platforms such as YouTube or Twitter. Of course this kind of content is and should be protected by copyright (and of course, others should be able to use these works under limitations and exceptions to copyright). The second category contains content that transforms copyrighted works into new creations for non-commercial purposes in a way that it does not conflict with the normal exploitation of the original work. This is the content that currently is not protected by European law, but should be allowed.

A right to transform a work using intellectual creative input without interfering with the exploitation of the original work should exist when the transformative work has been shared for non-commercial purposes. We all have become creators. We should embrace this and make transformative use legal. It has boosted cultural diversity, innovation, and cultural expression online. It has become part of our everyday life. Canada has implemented the so called transformative in article s. 29.21 of the Copyright Act. We hope to see such an exception for transformative use replicated in other jurisdictions, to empower new creators who wish to use and contribute to culture in the years to come.

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