Copyright extremism supports any extension of copyright protection, calling for the extension of terms to more than 100 years or introducing additional rights such as the German ancillary copyright for press publishers. Following this logic, copyright extremists believe that copyright protection could never be “too strong”. Therefore, any attempts at reducing current protection levels is considered to be wrong, and a fundamental attack on copyright itself.
However, such a stance ignores that not only too little protection might lead to a “Tragedy of the Commons” (with suboptimal provision and utilization of creative works), but also that too much protection might lead to the same result – something Michael Heller has termed “Tragedy of the Anticommons” (see also his book “The Gridlock Economy”). With increasing length and scope of copyright protection, the process of clearing rights becomes ever more difficult and costly, thus prohibiting the creation of new works and businesses that depend on access to previous works. In a way, copyright protection follows the old saying in life: you can have too much of a good thing.
An example of anti-commons problems are music mashups, which creatively re-combine pieces of different songs to create new compositions. Mashups are increasingly popular in social networks – David Wessel aka “Mashup Germany” has 250,000 fans on Facebook – but they are not played on the radio and cannot be purchased as downloads due to rights-clearing issues. Sharing a mashup online (even without a profit motive) might lead to a swift copyright takedown notice or an account being blocked on platforms such as Soundcloud. In effect, a vibrant and creative music genre is being marginalized because of an overly-restrictive copyright regime.
I used to participate in the copyright debate but don’t anymore because of its utter domination by copyright maximalists here in Germany and Europe in general.
Talking with extremists is a waste of time.