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Title: Copyright and culture : a qualitative theory
Author: Fraser, Henry
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 5161
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Copyright is conventionally justified as an incentive to produce and disseminate works of authorship. We can justify and theorise copyright more richly, not least because empirical evidence does not support the incentive narrative. Rather than focussing on quantitative matters such as the number of works incentivised and produced, we should consider copyright's qualitative influence on culture. A threshold objection to such an approach is the risk of cultural paternalism. This objection can be overcome. Rather than specifying paternalistic standards of merit for works, we can target the conditions under which their creation and consumption takes place. I argue, firstly, that we should adopt the following high-level principles: (i) that the conditions of creation and consumption of works should be conducive to democratic deliberation (democracy) and (ii) that they should facilitate the development of human capabilities (autonomy). Secondly, I propose that we pursue three mid-level objectives, which are helpful indicia of democracy and autonomy: - a fair and wide distribution of communicative and cultural power (inclusiveness); - diversity in the content and perspectives available to the public (diversity); and - conditions that permit authors and users of works to engage rigorously with the conventions of the media in which they operate (rigour). It is often said that copyright obstructs important qualitative objectives, like freedom of expression, and that we could better pursue these goals by weakening copyright and relying on non-proprietary alternatives. My approach produces a more optimistic, but also more complicated, view of copyright. While copyright's qualitative influence is not optimal, reductions in the strength and scope of copyright sometimes produces conditions and incentive structures that are worse for inclusiveness, diversity and rigour than stronger copyright. For example, both attention and wealth are highly concentrated in networked information economies driven by free sharing of content, and this is bad for diversity or inclusiveness. Online business models, based on surveillance of users' consumption of free works, are corrosive of autonomy and democracy. Merely removing copyright-based restrictions on the sharing of works is not a panacea for copyright's ills. A qualitative theory such as mine equips us to better understand and calibrate more richly the trade-offs involved in copyright policy decisions, and encourages us to treat copyright as part of a broader, qualitatively-oriented information and cultural policy.
Supervisor: Dinwoodie, Graeme Sponsor: University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Internet ; Copyright exceptions and limitations ; Copyright ; Kant ; Creative industries ; Culture ; Fair use ; Public discourse ; Freedom of expression ; Networked Information Economy ; markets ; discourse ; copyright ; democracy ; inclusive ; creative industries ; autonomy ; network effects ; winner takes all ; works ; free culture ; diversity ; wealth of networks ; levy ; deliberative democracy ; creativity ; freedom of expression ; clickbait ; authorship ; filter bubble ; aesthetics ; distributive justice ; positive liberty ; fair use ; free speech