The future of copyright: a perpetual right granted by courts

Copyright holders should have to justify their monopoly on their content to courts in return for a copyright that could be perpetual, an academic has proposed. Lior Zemer of Israel's Radznyer School of Law has recommended a five or 10-year rolling term.

Speaking to technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio, Zemer said that a fundamental imbalance needs to be put right between the owners of copyright and the general public.

"The main argument is that the public does play a major part in the very process of creating copyrighted material," Zemer said. "I would share the copyright for the reason that the public plays a decisive role in the creative process. It provides the framework, it provides the social, the cultural, the other materials without which the final product would not have come to existence."

Zemer argues on OUT-LAW Radio and in his recently published book 'The idea of authorship in copyright', that in order to be granted a monopoly on their content, authors should justify their claims over their creations.

Zemer believes that authors should be able to apply for five or 10-year copyright licences. A court would decide if an author deserved such a licence, but the author would have to re-apply at its expiry.

As a payback, the licences could extend on a rolling basis into perpetuity, said Zemer, but there is another catch: exemptions to it could also be limitless.

Exemptions to copyright already exist, for example for libraries or students who want to make copies of work. Zemer would insist that a copyright licence would have an open list of exemptions that could be added to by a court at any time in the future.

Zemer said that his proposal would give the public a share in material created by artists. He believes that this system would be a fairer representation of the real relative contributions made by artists and by society at large.

"There is lots in writing that sees the authors as almighty creators that create from nothing, from thin air. This has nothing to do with reality," said Zemer. "Authors themselves say they react to what they see, and they react to what society and culture has to offer. Without the public as part of the creative process, copyright works and authorship would have nothing to offer."

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