I don’t know, but from the copyright-related press I’ve been reading over the past few weeks, it appears to me that the ‘stars may be aligning’ for media companies (and in particular, RIAA & MPAA).

First is the leaked portion of the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), which, among other things, urges participating governments to ‘crack down’ on copyright infringers (a.k.a., file sharing).

Then there’s the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Victoria A. Espinel, who’s requesting comments from the public as to how best stop ‘the public’ from file sharing & much more.

And finally, the report that the top official at the Dept of Commerce stated that the US Government’s policy of leaving the Internet alone is over, and that they would now cover issues that include copyright protection.

Isn’t that just great!  It’s taken over 300 years, but the publishers/media companies/distributors may finally get, once again, what they’ve always desired — complete control of all content (books, music, media/movies, etc), with government law and mandates to back them up.

I stumbled across an article at QuestionCopyright.org titled “The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World” published in Oct, 2005, and also available here.  Not believing everything I read, I followed up on his references, in particular his first reference “Copyright and ‘The Exclusive Right’ of Authors” by Professor Lyman Ray Patterson, Pope Brock Professor of Law at the University of Georgia.  This essay was written in 1993, but is completely applicable to our current ‘copyright’ mayhem today.  It’s not a light read, but it completely backs up the history article above and provides considerably more insight as to how we got to where we are today.

Still not satisfied with just one article and a 17 yr old reference, I started reading Adrian Johns’ new book, “Piracy — The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates.”  Wow… talk about depressing.  (Not the book!  It’s fascinating!)  What’s depressing is just how long these ‘copyright wars’ have been going on.  Over 300 years ago, there were plenty of opponents that fought against granting ‘property rights’ and monopolies to publishers, not to mention, quite a few extremely intelligent folks on the judiciary & in government positions.  How many opponents exist to fight ACTA & IPEC today?  And most importantly, it’s not just the media companies & distributors of content we must worry about, but also what our own government is doing or trying to do to copyright infringers!

Adrian Johns explains that piracy has just as much, if not more, history than intellectual property.  It has ALWAYS stood at the center of our attempts to reconcile creativity and commerce, and piracy has been an engine of social, technological, and intellectual innovations as often as it has been their adversary.

The ‘copyright’ situation today is just ‘yet another’ battle being played, proceeded in most recent times by battles over sheet music, pirate radio, home taping (reel-to-real units), cassette recorders, VHS recorders and MP3 players.  In each of these, media companies claimed ‘the sky is falling’, that they were losing millions or billions of dollars, and that their very livelihood was threatened.  The RIAA was formed in the early 50’s (home taping era) with an avowed antipiracy mission, which included lobbying for copyright and intervening in its own right to deter, prevent, and detect piracy.  From Johns’ book, it’s apparent that the RIAA was just as sneaky and underhanded back in the 50’s as they are today.  Ditto for the MPAA, which was formed about 20 yrs later.

I used to think in terms of “Copyright Reform.”  Not any more… especially after reading in detail about it’s ugly history.  The only way we can make things right is to end copyright, once and for all.  But it’s not going to happen unless “we” — yeah… the 100’s of millions of alleged ‘infringers’ — get involved.  (or at least interested in what’s happening!)

BTW, Adrian Johns book on “Piracy” is fascinating!  Unfortunately, it’s over 500 pages in length and it’s going to take some time to finish.

And finally, another article worth reading at QuestionCopyright.org titled “What We Lose When We Embrace Copyright.”