Lessig frustrated with Kopinor conference

Lawrence Lessig gave a talk at a conference for licensing organizations here in Norway and was frustrated because the audience (or, at least, most of them) didn’t get it, and he was seen as naïve and dangerous.
I am not really surprised – the collective licensing organizations collect money where they can and dole it out to “approved” authors (not all authors, only those deemed qualitatively good enough.) Creative Commons and other forms of financing destroys (or, at least, attacks) their reason for being. Hence the hostility.

I could, unfortunately, not be at the conference. Wish I was. But I will get my chance later this year, giving a talk at a conference for a similar organization in Denmark.

As for Lessig’s view of Norway – I hope he is reassured that some Norwegians, at least, think highly of him and his ideas. The Future of Ideas remains the one book I recommend to everyone to understand the need for a differentiated set of rights systems and a “default option” of free and available.

Don’t give up, Larry. The Swedes joke that when airplanes from Stockholm land in Oslo, the captain will tell passengers to put their clocks five years back. We will get there, eventually.

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9 thoughts on “Lessig frustrated with Kopinor conference

  1. Dragos

    Hi Espen — are you coming or consider coming to Reboot? (www.reboot.dk) It’s on June 10 and 11 and mixes up some interesting folks and topics.

  2. David Basskin

    Slander is fun, isn’t it? “Collective licensing organizations,” you say, “collect money where they can and dole it out to “approved” authors (not all authors, only those deemed qualitatively good enough.”
    Your proposition, I take it, is that authors’ and copyright owners’ collective licensing organizations are some kind of racket that take in money through deceit and distribute it fraudulently or in a discriminatory fashion.
    Which collectives are you referring to? Names, please. Which authors have been unjustly rewarded? Which have been shortchanged? Enough with the soapbox polemics: evidence, please.

  3. Espen

    You are right that I should provide examples (though I think you are a bit aggressive in your rhetoric), so here are two:
    Two examples: The Norwegian author’s association, financed by the libraries of Norway (which pay a collective fee meant to compensate authors for the use of their books by libraries.) This organization is only open for “quality” authors (as determined by the current members), meaning that a number of authors of romances, crime and such books (which are among the most popular in the libraries) get nothing.
    A second example is Kopinor itself, which collects a fee from universities, school, companies etc. meant to compensate authors for works copied for studying (which is permissible under Norwegian law.) Yet, most of what is copied in Norwegian universities is foreign material, which they make little effort to redistribute. Also, they refuse to take into account the increasing amount of material that is available free for non-commercial use (such as all of ACMs material, for instance) and thus take a reduction in their fees. Incidentally, the money is distributed according to criteria somewhat similar to the Norwegian authors’ association mentioned above.
    Mind you, I don’t oppose the idea of collective licensing organizations – but I think they are not too unwilling victims of institutionalization.

  4. Trond Smith-Meyer

    As Kopinors head of information, I have to comment on your description of our activities. Sad thing your werent present at the Kopinor symposium. If you had, you couldnt possibly have got it all that wrong.
    Copying agreements are freely negotiated between users (e.g. universities) and rights holders (Kopinor). The amount of the collected remuneration, and the way it is distributed, is based on statistical surveys, which are carried out by independent bureaus and supervised by representatives for both users and rights holders. The remuneration for copying of foreign material (about 40 per cent of all copying in the universities and colleges) is of course – distributed to foreign rights holders. Every single krone earned by foreign rights holders is set aside, and throughout its 25 years of existence, Kopinor has put enormous efforts in finding ways to distribute these funds to where they belong.
    And no we do not refuse to take into account the different conditions set by those who publish on the net. We have a long track record of reducing our collections for similar reasons. This will probably be a major point of discussion in our coming negotiations with the universities and colleges, when we are to set the terms for the use of printouts.
    Finally, the extended collective license, as prescribed in the Norwegian Copyright Act, secures the equal treatment of rights holders, regardless of their organisational affiliation. This general rule applies to the funds distributed to all member organisations.
    I will recommend both you and the readers of your blog to get more info at our web site http://www.kopinor.org (with information in English and several other languages).
    Trond Smith-Meyer

  5. Hans M. Graasvold

    Adding to what Kopinor’s head of information just posted: library fees (that are paid by the government, not collected from the individual users, and distributed by the individual rights holders associations) have nothing to do with collective licensing, as carried out by Kopinor. Second, a substantial amount of photocopying fees are generated from the photocopying of NORWEGIAN academic, non fiction literature, and not – as Mr. Andersen seems to believe – FOREIGN literature. These money are distributed by the Norwegian non fiction writers and translators association (NFF), and not by the Norwegian writers association (/’guilt’). Regarding the legislation regulating these matters, HOW the distribution is carried out, is by and large left to the organizations to decide. Collective distribution is supported by strong approval from the government, and supports the creation of new literature in a way that individual distribution would not. As for the money distributed by NFF, everyone, not just the ‘approved authors’, are eligible for grants from the literary funds. Please feel free to be enlightened by visiting http://www.nffo.no , or http://www.kopinor.no (Reading Lessig may not be the best way explore how the collective licensing system works out in Norway).
    Best regards
    Hans M. Graasvold, legal adviser NFF

  6. Anonymous

    Wow!
    This is the most interesting thing to me. Both as an academic interested in the issues raised by open-source and free culture but also in relation to Norway more generally.
    Being married to a Norwegian I have been keeping my eyes open to the things that are happening on the CC front in Norway and annoyingly missed this conference but I am *amazed* at the reactions it is having. Norway as a small country could find major advantages in CC licensing if it were to pause and consider the facts before falling into the TRIPS type rhetoric and inward looking IP protectionism that these appears to be.
    I do think that there may be certain cultural incommensurables at work here and poor understanding of the issues Lessig is raising. But hopefully the debate will start to move on in Norway as in other countries …
    David

  7. Anonymous

    Wow!
    This is the most interesting thing to me. Both as an academic interested in the issues raised by open-source and free culture but also in relation to Norway more generally.
    Being married to a Norwegian I have been keeping my eyes open to the things that are happening on the CC front in Norway and annoyingly missed this conference but I am *amazed* at the reactions it is having. Norway as a small country could find major advantages in CC licensing if it were to pause and consider the facts before falling into the TRIPS type rhetoric and inward looking IP protectionism that these appears to be.
    I do think that there may be certain cultural incommensurables at work here and poor understanding of the issues Lessig is raising. But hopefully the debate will start to move on in Norway as in other countries …
    David

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