In my new Guardian column, “Copyright law should distinguish between commercial and cultural uses,” I argue for a new kind of copyright law, one that mirrors the “folk copyright” that individuals have lived by for decades — the alternative is to try to get kids and fans to participate in the “real” copyright, a system of industrial regulation so complex that it can barely be understood by full-time copyright attorneys.
This is a genuinely radical idea: individuals should hire lawyers to negotiate their personal use of cultural material, or at least refrain from sharing their cultural activities with others (except it’s not’s really culture if you’re not sharing it, is it?).
It’s also a dumb idea. People aren’t going to hire lawyers to bless the singalong or Timmy’s comic book. They’re also not going to stop doing culture.
We need to stop shoe-horning cultural use into the little carve-outs in copyright, such as fair dealing and fair use. Instead we need to establish a new copyright regime that reflects the age-old normative consensus about what’s fair and what isn’t at the small-scale, hand-to-hand end of copying, display, performance and adaptation.