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 In Berne Convention, Copyright, Copyright Act, Copyright Virus, Orphan Works, TRIPS

“An alternative copyright that allows authors and artists to give away their work while retaining some commercial rights is being adapted for use across Europe and beyond.” This according to Jennifer L. Schenker, writing in the International Herald Tribune: New Copyright Grants Artists Greater License, June 14, 2004.

“Lawyers, musicians and filmmakers gathered in Berlin on Friday [June 11, 2004] for the German introduction of the [alternative] licenses, which were first drafted for use in the United States in 2001 by Creative Commons, a Silicon Valley nonprofit organization. The German debut followed the introduction of Creative Commons licenses in Japan in March, in Finland in May and in Brazil on June 4.

“Some 60 countries are expected to adapt Creative Commons licenses to their jurisdiction, ‘and Germany is a critical part of that process,’ said Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford University law professor who is the chairman and co-founder of Creative Commons.

“Creative Commons licenses will be introduced in the Netherlands next Friday and in France by the end of the summer, with a goal of creating licenses for all EU countries by year-end, Lessig said in an interview by phone last week.”

According to Lessig, these alternative copyrights will give artists greater “freedom” to give away their work. According to the article, “Artists choose how they want to share the work, specifying whether they want credit for reuse, whether they want to be paid for commercial use or whether it is acceptable to change [the work].”

Since nothing in current copyright law prevents artists from giving up their copyrights or declining payment and credit for their work, artists may wonder why they need new laws giving them “greater license” to do so. In fact, the “alternative” copyright is intended to act as a copyright “virus,” infecting traditional copyright protections throughout society. This would give commercial access to protected works by anyone wishing to profit from their use.

Lawrence Lessig is a driving force behind “The Copy Left,” a loose coalition of legal scholars and internet providers, whose goal is to rollback or abolish traditional copyright protections. They blame “the romantic notionof authorship” for impeding the distribution of culture and inhibiting creativity in the arts.

“Lessig is the author of “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.” He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court against extending the length of time that copyrights cover original works [Eldred v Ashcroft] and is an advocate of open-source software, which is distributed freely on the Internet.”

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