Research Blog Series: Living with(in) copyright law

How does the general public view copyright law? Lee Edwards presents research from the University of Leeds into this question, for the Research Blog Series.


Project: Living with(in) copyright law: What is it, how does it work, how could it change?

Investigators: Dr Lee Edwards, Dr Giles Moss, University of Leeds.

What did your research aim to do?
We aimed to investigate how members of the public would discuss the complex issue of copyright, when they were given relevant information and time and space for reflection through a structured deliberative process.

How did you do it?
88 members of the Leeds public came together over one weekend to discuss copyright law, its implementation, and ways it might change. Participants were provided with information about copyright from advocates and experts in the field and then asked to discuss key questions related to duration, exceptions, and enforcement.

What are your key findings?
Participants engaged enthusiastically, offering perspectives and ideas about how copyright currently works and could work better in practice, including new and occasionally radical insights.

Participants drew on a range of evidence about copyright in their discussions, including their own lives, news stories and popular culture. They critiqued justifications of copyright, reflected on their own position, and understood the difficulties of implementing copyright in a complex environment. Their engagement demonstrates the potential value of making copyright debates more democratic and inclusive.

By the end of the event, participants’ views consolidated around a justification of copyright in terms of civic, rather than market interests, prioritising the public domain in copyright law. Many participants started with limited knowledge of copyright policy but by the end of the event, the survey showed that participants had developed a greater understanding of the area and were more able to offer opinions about different aspects of policy.

Demographic groups varied in their opinions about copyright. Future research should ensure there is a diversity of participants, to gather more information about these differences.

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
We showed that the public should be involved as an insightful contributor to discussions about the future of copyright. We plan to deliver a policy summary document and a presentation to policy and IP analysts in winter 2017/spring 2018. We hope that a larger study, building on this pilot project, will provide additional evidence about how public involvement and deliberation can enrich copyright debates and policymaking.

Challenges encountered/Lessons learned
Participants would have appreciated having creative industries and producers represented at the event. In future research, all parties in the debate should be equally represented so that their positions can be fully considered by participants.

Some commercial organisations may be wary of engaging in this kind of event; we need to find ways to ensure they feel confident enough to participate.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
The pilot project provided data based on one event. The exercise needs to be replicated to ensure recommendations are robust.

How has your association with CREATe helped to take things forward?
Access to a network of experts who can participate in the event and provide avenues for further impact; Access to lay-friendly materials (the copyrightuser website) made it easy to communicate the basics of copyright policy and law.

To find out more see the working paper: http:/www.create.ac.uk/publications/living-within-copyright-law-what-is-it-how-does-it-work-how-could-it-change-project-report/

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