Access to culture – copying copyright right

The G8 met last week on invitation of French president Sarkozy in a new, even more informal, setting – the e-G8, to discuss the future of the internet from the perspective of the global markets biggest players. In the e-G8 selected representatives of the private sector and digial society were invited to elaborate on current issues on internet governance. The actual G8 met in its regular setup and committed itself in its declaration to a stronger law enforcement on copyright violations.

Overall not a new trend considering the developments of the ACTA, which was already multilateral agreement between states outside the existing institutional frameworks like UN, IMF or WIPO, as well resulting in a stong statement for copyrights and enforcement of the national copyright protection laws.

Conflicting copyright systems between the US and European states brought down Googles vision of an open library on the internet. Google books certainly was a very nonchalant approach to increase the amount of quality content available via google. Whilst it was a big success in the USA and is used by people all over the country it suffers strong restrictions through geo blocks in the EU.

The geo blocks prevent from accessing the content of the page properly, either the found books are not accessible or miss random pages. Geo blocks were put in place to ensure the copyrights according to the various national copyright systems. Between different ways to protect either the rights bearer or the content creator the biggest problem were books where the authors could not be found anymore, resulting in a standstill on theĀ  process to make the books available.

The EU alternative was to set up their own database with a lot of good intentions and an even larger amount of contents, also including paintings, sculptures and other cultural heritage objects. The website of Europeana is available in the official languages of the EU but its stuck in its Beta status, due to the unexpected costs that digitalizing the culture had. Whilst the private sector could afford to spend the amount of money the European states where not able to follow up the needs of their citizens to access cultural goods as easy and cheap as possible.

What happen to the intentions that offline libraries represented, to make culture and education available to all citizens for only little money or even free of charge? I remember going to the library and being able to rent books but also boardgames, CDs, VHS tapes and even video games. To ask for the same right on the internet, for a similar access structure with the support of the state, for an alternative licencing model on cultural goods, goes already beyond the border of imagination of our national governments. I would love a state that cares for my education and access to culture but if the state is not willing to provide they should at least not hinder the private sector companies to do their job for them!

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