Re-Imagining Digital Copyright Through the Power of Imitation: Lessons from Confucius and Plato
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Giancarlo Frosio: Strasbourg University
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For millennia, Western and Eastern culture shared a common creative paradigm. From Confucian China, across the Hindu Kush with the Indian Mahābhārata, the Bible, the Koran and the Homeric epics, to Platonic mimēsis and Shakespeare’s “borrowed feathers,” our culture was created under a fully open regime of access to pre-existing expressions and re-use. Creativity used to be propelled by the power of imitation. However, modern policies have largely forgotten the cumulative and collaborative nature of creativity. Actually, the last three decades have witnessed an unprecedented expansion of intellectual property rights in sharp contrast with the open and participatory social norms governing creativity in the networked environment. Against this background, this paper discusses the reaction to traditional copyright policy and the emergence of a social movement re-imagining copyright according to a common tradition focusing on re-use, collaboration, access and cumulative creativity. This reaction builds upon copyright’s growing irrelevance in the public mind, especially among younger generations in the digital environment, because of the emergence of new economics of digital content distribution in the Internet. Along the way, the rise of the users, and the demise of traditional gatekeepers, forced a process of reconsideration of copyright’s rationale and welfare incentives. Scholarly and market alternatives to traditional copyright have been plenty, attempting to reconcile pre-modern, modern and post-modern creative paradigms. Building upon this body of research, proposals and practice, this Article will finally try to chart a roadmap for reform that reconnects Eastern and Western creative experience in light of a common past, looking for a shared future.
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