The goal of copyright

Over the weekend, author Joe Konrath posted his views of what constitutes "fair use" of his work. Konrath thinks it makes sense to let people build on his work, while making one fundamental distinction: 

If you do want to use my work to make money for yourself, I think it is fair to include me somehow, by negotiating for the rights to do so. But if you want to use my work for anything else, enjoy yourself.

I learned of Konrath's post on Teleread, where Juli Monroe wrote a good summary. Though Monroe described Konrath's stance as "surprising", I think the author has held his point of view for quite some time, something I added in a comment to her work.

Konrath was responding to a tweet from the U.K.-based Publishers Association. During a digital conference panel about copyright, the PA feed posted a picture of the panel and claimed "Copyright is fundamental to creative industries, those who believe it is not relevant are mistaken".

In response, Konrath makes an essential point: industries don't own copyrights; those who create a work do. Creators may assign certain rights to others, but the goal of copyright is not to preserve industries. It is to encourage the creation of new works, while also providing for eventual public access those works.

This is a distinction that associations and rights registry organizations too often gloss over or simply omit. It's reasonable for industries to band together to preserve their interests. The law, though, should balance public and private interests, not work to protect the industries built upon the work of others.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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