For the past 25 years we at IViR have worked exclusively in the area of Information Law, which means that we study the regulation of information relations and information streams, to understand the processes, from creation and dissemination of information products and content, to communication infrastructures, etc. So that is much wider than copyright.
We see ourselves as interdisciplinary legal scholars even though we also have projects involving inhouse sociologists and economists. We found out, over the years of doing interdisciplinary work, that it takes a lot of time for researchers to learn to speak each other’s language, and that it’s actually easier just to have in-house staff to get those connections and conversations going between the researchers. We believe in ‘legal interdisciplinarity’ which means that someone might specialise in regulation and competition, or media regulation, or intellectual property or data protection.
I guess, there are many more predictions I can think of about where copyright and information law generally is going. One thing is: incremental policy decisions on IP enforcement, how these affect, over the longer term, the public sphere, in society and public freedoms and political freedoms … in terms of access, control and how this potentially travels to other areas. This is something that’s not considered within policy law-making at all, and academia either. There’s potential danger because there are some very good reasons for having stricter IP enforcement, but how will this type of system have ripple effects in other areas and affect other information relationships throughout society.
In terms of transparency and accountability I think it’s the same in the UK as we perceive it throughout Europe. We expect much more from our governments in terms of accountability and transparency today than we did years ago. But that’s not the same for the private sector – even though, particularly with technologies claiming to be transparent, it’s difficult to see what’s happening with say Facebook. Which consumers and users are aware of what’s actually happening with their data?
Five years hence, I guess I would want to say that copyright is moving from the power to steal to much more the power to be able to command fair compensation. I don’t see it happening any time soon because of vested interests and the international agreements we have – you might end up there at some point though. I think we also need to get away from continually focusing on books and film, because we’re also talking more content. If you look at what the criteria are for works as developed in European copyright law, everything’s there, everybody’s an author, and virtually every act of communication infringes somebody’s copyright. So, if you want to keep that generic model, you’re stuck with very broad exclusive rights, that’s just not a workable model for the future.