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In December 2013 Centrum Cyfrowe completed a two-year research project on copyright law and contemporary forms of using content. This presentation has been inspired by the results of that project.

The research consisted of 2 stages: the quality stage — 18 focus group interviews, 54 hours of talks, over 140 interlocutors at ages between 15 and 60; the quantity stage — Computer-Assisted Web Interview (CAWI) method, 1316 Internet users from the whole of Poland aged 15-65; Computer-Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) method, 1000 Poles at ages 15-75.

Centrum Cyfrowe

Copyright law is so obsolete that maintaining its present shape ceases to be beneficial to anyone.

There is a great risk that making the present order more restrictive will lead to introducing a system of digital supervision over society. Such solutions have been the core element of the blocked agreements such as ACTA, SOPA and PIPA.

The issue of the inevitable copyright reform is too important to be left in the hands of lawyers providing services to corporations – whether of the old or the new economy. Millions are subject to copyright law today and their voice has to be taken into account.

The Internet changes the ways of dealing with content, but one cannot grasp it without posing a question beforehand:
How do we – as a society – change under the influence of the Web? Owing to this study, we wanted, among other things, to learn what people think of various methods of using digital content.

We were not interested in the knowledge of the very legal provisions. People have no clue about the law and copyright is no exception. On the other hand, we were curious what in people's opinion is practically allowed and what banned? what is right, and what is wrong? and how do we try to find ourselves in all this on a daily basis?

What do you know about

Please specify in which of the three situations law is violated.

Weronika made copies of her own movie DVDs
and made them available to her friends at a file sharing service on a password-protected account

As her hobby, Anna creates funny
video mashups of films, which
she later posts on Youtube

Izabela made a copy of her own DVD
with a TV series and gave it
to her colleague at work



Our research showed a low level of knowledge on what is allowed and what forbidden by copyright. Out of 12 test „legal and illegal” scenarios of using content, the respondents have correctly qualified an average of 5.

We best deal with recognizing practices connected with commercial trading in content. In such cases, copyright still corresponds with the social expectations. For instance: people know that it is allowed to resale an original record and that one cannot sell a record copied by oneself.

We are worst at assessing web practices that go without any tangible data storage device and are not profit-oriented. It is in such situations our internal compass, telling "what is allowed and what is not", proves to be most fallible.

We were surprised that people consider copyright to be more restrictive than it actually is. Legal activities are more often perceived as illegal than the other way round.

Copyright is not breached due to a low awareness of the law. Copyright is violated despite the conviction that many common practices are illegal.

The basic problem with copyright therefore lies somewhere else.

Our respondents
often expressed
seemingly contradictory
52% respondents think that downloading music and films from the Internet is wrong and unfair
72% believes that free copying and using content on the Internet for the purposes other than earning money is not wrong and should not be penalized
63% thinks that intellectual property is the same type of ownership as that of a physical object
91% is of the opinion that free access to films, music or books on the Internet became a significant element of our daily lives
Only 99% of respondents see the arbitrariness
of "owning" creations of the mind.
New patterns of behavior mediated through technology
If one can lend a record to a friend, then can one make it available to him or her through the web?
Slowly changing social norms of using content
Can we call downloading music and films theft, or is it perhaps a linguistic manipulation?
An outdated image people have of the creative process
To what extent can the author control the manner in which a work already published is used? Where do the author's rights end and the recipient's rights begin?
copyright law
How do the rights of a purchaser of a music CD relate to the rights of a subscriber of a music streaming service, such as Spotify?
This confusion results from several discrepancies
„The limits are unknown between the possible and the impossible, what is just and what is unjust, legitimate claims and hopes and those which are immoderate”

This is how the pioneer of sociology, Emile Durkheim, described the tensions of transformation of a traditional society into an industrial society at the end of the 19th century. Durkheim called that phenomenon social anomie.

This description dating back to over one hundred years ago aptly depicts our present situation in which there is an attempt to rigidly maintain the system of "intellectual property” from the industrial era. That is why today everyone on a daily basis experiences the anomie of circulation of intellectual property. The rules of the previous era are no longer valid, and we still have not created any guidelines for the new times.

Summing up this complicated status quo and the results of our research, we can say that:

1. There is a prevailing understanding of and consent for the Internet practices of using content freely.
2. Social perceptions of creativity and intellectual property last as an intact heritage of the industrial era.
3. Most people notice and accept the necessity to pay creators a fee, however, at the same time they would like to have the products of their work readily available for the taking.
Legal Culture
Cultural Law??
Copyright Holders
Authors and Creators?
Free Access
Networked Control?
Living culture
Merchandise Culture?

Do you want to know more about the research? Download the report 

Do you want to learn opinions of artists on copyright (in Polish)? Kultura ponad prawem 

This situation will seem to be a dead end so long, as long as the image of creativity and methods of its exploitation stemming from the past century will remain our frame of reference.

There is much at stake in the reform of copyright, as it involves transformation of the social order. It may so happen that trying to tackle the issue of market legitimacy of culture, we will create a much greater problem: a system of digital control tailor-made to suit the Internet era.

Project „Copyright Law in Transition"

authors of the research report: Michał Danielewicz, Alek Tarkowski
presentation design: Michał Szota
presentation script: Michał Danielewicz

Warsaw, December 2013

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This presentation is licenced under Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Poland

Licencja Creative Commons

Co-financed from the funds of the The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland


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