Copyright? Who wants to know?

A refusal in January 2010 by the Minister of State for Business, Innovation & Skills to share the paperwork on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with British MPs indicates how sensitive the discussion on cross-border copyright issues have become. It”s common practice, says David Lammy, to keep such negotiations confidential. But some (notably Chris Williams writing for The Register) sees a darker side to this, claiming that this suggests the outcome of the negotiations are likely to be favourable to established interests in the music and film industries. In Chapter 5, we made it clear that the conventional framework for the protection of IP (intellectual property) had struggled to keep up with the Internet. Trade-offs, we said, lay at the heart of intellectual property. Without legal protection, any  innovations run the risk of becoming, in effect, public goods through copying and are susceptible to abuse by free riders, who may contribute less than their fair share of the costs of production. On the other hand, it is all very well to reward innovation and creativity by granting exclusive rights to the innovators, but this may lead to monopoly pricing, the exclusion of other innovators and undesirable costs to consumers. Getting the balance right is pretty important.