Lynne Spender’s essay on Google books and copyright in the latest Meanjin spurred one of the more feisty sessions at the Sydney Writers Festival, with the attendees divided between those who passionately agreed and those who vehemently opposed.. ABC Radio’s Book Show staged a return bout, with Lynne debating author Morris Gleitzman. The whole thing is worth reading but here’s a couple of snippets.
Lynne Spender: Well, I think the principle of copyright and of creators having some sort of protection of their work is just as valid as it ever was, but copyright was a system that was based on print and on fixed physical products of books. We now have literary creativity in a whole lot of areas that aren’t in fixed form anymore, they are digital, and I think that we need to rethink copyright in order to cope with these exciting new digital opportunities for knowledge, information and creativity. [snip]
Morris Gleitzman: I am, I’m hugely optimistic about all these wonderful new opportunities. I think what the internet, as Lynne says, offers us all is fantastic new possibilities to share the products of creative endeavour as well as ideas and information in all sorts of wonderful ways. But because the internet provides such wonderful opportunities for sharing, what I’m sensing in the commentary of some of the people who want to rebuild concepts of copyright is that copyright is underlying lots of these ideas. I think it’s a notion that isn’t related only to print, it’s that we should be able to own and derive income from our labours is a really basic sort of principle that is part of a tradition of social justice in human society that really transcends the whole world of communication. We are of course free as a society to reinvent ourselves and to say that yes, we will share everything. But at the moment I sense possibly an ideologically driven inclination in a lot of this commentary which says that sharing should maybe now be compulsory because it is so possible. This is selectively applied only to the products of creative and intellectual endeavour. I quite like the idea of sharing everything in our lives but let’s do it across the board, not just single out the people who are going to supply content for this new digital age.
[Update: the Meanjin kids have now made Lynne Spender’s essay available on the intertubes]