Anti-copyright advocates often argue that protecting copyright is about protecting “old business models”. The subtext is that property rights and market forces are “old school”. The “new business models” are giving things away, or letting them be taken for free, and having to compete with your own property to stay in business.
Danielle Parr takes a swipe at this “free culture” creed in her op-ed today in the National Post, Time to tackle video-game piracy. She argues forcefully that digital piracy undermines markets, jobs, and consumer choice and that a robust copyright regime is necessary to enable markets to operate properly.
The federal government has announced its consultation process on a digital economy strategy. Business leaders and experts are anxiously awaiting the results, with the knowledge that it will be a key component to Canada’s future competitiveness. Yet, meanwhile, the decade-old debate on copyright reform rages on, sparked by the impending introduction of another copyright reform bill in the House of Commons.
Canada needs strong copyright. Critics would have us believe that the only reason for reform is to appease our southern neighbours. However, in the new global digital economy, no country is an island. Canada’s approach to copyright must be consistent with that of our trading partners and with international norms. More importantly, however, the real impetus for copyright reform should be Canadian jobs and Canadian competitiveness.
Piracy fundamentally undermines the integrity of the marketplace by requiring creators and companies to compete against their own products and affecting their ability to recover the significant investments associated with digital media production. A robust copyright regime would permit market forces to operate properly.
In a free market, consumers dictate what content and what distribution methods they prefer. Legitimate competition, which leads to innovation and more consumer choice, benefits end users as prices go down and quality goes up.
If we don’t adequately protect the rights of our creators to control access to their work, we are basically forcing them to give their works away for free, instead of supporting the broadest possible range of business models. Creators — such as manufacturers or service providers — must have the ultimate right to decide how and at what cost their product can be accessed. Consumers, on the other hand, determine which business models succeed in the marketplace by speaking with their pocketbooks.