Last Thursday the IPKat paid a visit to the bi-monthly BLACA meeting. The topic was Music Piracy: "Past and Present: Learn the Lesson".
The session started off with Dr Isabella Alexander (Cambridge) recounting a former musical piracy furore – the distribution of unauthorised copies of sheet music at the turn of the twentieth century – and the (surprisingly entertaining) attempts by copyright owners to win stronger enforcement powers.
The future for bloggers?
Then Hubert Best (Best & Soames) threw some internet-related questions into the arena. One which provoked a good deal of argument was:
"Does the rise of network journalism present a new challenge to the frontier between copyright and freedom of expression?’".The argument broadly was that the mechanism of network journalism [blogging to you and me] requires a degree of borrowing that might exceed what would traditionally be regarded as permissible use, but at the same time, in order to facilitate freedom of expression, we might want to take a relatively liberal approach to the demands of copyright law.
This provoked a discussion about the reliability of network journalists, who are not necessarily subject to the same professional standards as traditional journalists and whose stories, as a result, may not be as reliable. This in turn led to a discussion of whether network journalists have a right to the free expression of information that is not truthful (the argument being that Art.10 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives a right to ‘receive and impart information’ freely, and that in order to be classed as ‘information’ the data must be true).
The IPKat says that this is a serious subject, in need of urgent attention (it would be far better to than to have this out as a principled debate, than to wait until the litigation lawyers come knocking). He is disturbed though by the thought of less protection for free expression where the information turns out to be untrue (that is, info that bloggers believed to be true and the time that in the event wasn’t true – where bloggers deliberately spread info that they know to be untrue, the IPKat is happy to throw them to his cousins, the lions). Many bloggers simply don’t have the financial backing to verify in a foolproof manner the information that they blog. Giving less protection for the expression of data that turns out to be untrue could have a serious chilling effect of bloggers, leaving just the ‘corporate bloggers’ (which rather defeats the point).