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Leading scholar warns that new IP laws will crush creativity

17 November 2004

One of the world’s leading copyright experts has slammed the latest developments in copyright law, warning that arts and culture will lose out to corporations and governments in the digital age.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor at New York University known for his controversial views, has long studied the development of copyright law through history, with creators such as Albrecht Dürer and Mark Twain involved in significant copyright battles in their time. Speaking to the Chronicle of Higher Education,  he criticised the increasing control given to corporations and governments through the legal battles which have raged over the past few years, such as file sharing.

"I resent a legal system that makes it too difficult and too expensive for creators to play around with the culture," he stated. "I resent the fact that copyrights last so long that things that should be free and convenient to use are locked down and lost forever."

In the past, Vaidhyanathan, has argued that although digital technology has allowed artists, librarians, and academics to advance and analyse culture in new ways, copyright law is hampering those innovations. His new book, The Anarchist in the Library, describes the digital revolution as a battle between those who would free culture and those who would use technology to lock it down.

In the race to bottle up information and culture, Vaidhyanathan states that government and content holders are trying to use technology to solve problems that are essentially social. He says people tend to be afraid of the free flow of information and rush to create laws and write code to stop that flow. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes breaking digital protections on files illegal, is an example, he says.

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