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Copyright Society's 'World IP Day' Lesson: Give Us Your Copyrights For Nothing

Every year around April 26th, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) hosts a weird dog and pony show of copyright/patent/trademark maximalism that it calls World IP Day. In the past, we’ve pointed out that the events and festivities are disturbingly one-sided and frequently clueless. For example, two years ago, WIPO used Bob Marley’s famous line “Get Up, Stand Up” as the theme for World IP Day, ignoring the history of Jamaican music, in which the lack of copyright protections in the 50s and early 60s is basically what allowed Bob Marley to become a world phenomenon (and, later, the fact that Marley and Universal Music got tangled up in a fight over copyrights).

Anyway, the “theme” for this year’s World IP Day is “Innovation — Improving Lives,” which suggests a stronger focus on the patent side of the equation this year. WIPO has a list of suggested activities for World IP Day, including staging exhibitions, setting up a booth at the airport to talk about “IP and the role it plays” in your daily lives (really), or… hosting an “essay competition.” It would appear that the Copyright Society of the USA has decided to take this approach and has announced an essay competition. Oddly, this is not on the website of the Copyright Society of the USA, but only over email — and a recipient of that email has kindly forwarded it to me.

As you might imagine, the Copyright Society of the USA tends to be fairly supportive of ever expanding and ever expansive copyright law. It is also — apparently — supportive of the idea that it’s not so much the creator who deserves the benefits of copyright law, but rather the larger gatekeepers. Such as itself. After all, here are the “rules” for the Copyright Society of the USA’s essay contest promoting the wonders of copyright:

Pretty simple. If you can’t see that, the rules are:

  • Essays must be 700 words or less in English
  • Essays must be original and unpublished. Plagiarized entries will be rejected.
  • Essays must be written by one person. Co-authored essays are not accepted.
  • Copyright of the essays entered will be assigned to the organizer.

Yup. So celebrate copyright… by handing your copyrights over to the Copyright Society of the USA for free. Well, perhaps not for free, because (based on no clear criteria) the Copyright Society of the USA will pick three “winners” who will receive credits in $100, $50 and $25 denominations to be used at (an online delivery service). Very exciting. I guess, perhaps, that will teach the young folks this contest is likely targeted at a little something about copyright: which is expect to have a larger, more well-resourced organization demand to take control over your copyrights for a pittance (if anything). That’s quite a lesson for World IP Day.

Anyway, in the spirit of… “innovation,” we’ve decided that we might as well do our own World IP Day writing contest, but (again, in the spirit of “innovation”) let’s make it an “anti” contest. Part of the wonders of the internet is that you don’t need gatekeepers anymore — and you certainly don’t need them taking control over your copyrights. There are lots of platforms where you can post your own essays, perhaps on the theme of open innovation and how that helps innovation. Or on how intellectual property has been used to stifle and hold back innovation. If you choose to post it with a permissive and open license (or better yet, a public domain/CC0 dedication) and then let us know about it, and we may consider republishing it here to get it some more attention. Or not. You don’t need us. And you certainly don’t need the Copyright Society of the USA taking your copyright in your little propaganda piece about how copyright is awesome.

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Author: Mike Masnick

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