What are Publishers for? – Michael Fraser challenges today’s misconceptions on copyright

In a powerful Charles Clarke Memorial Lecture, Professor Michael Fraser, Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney, asserted copyright’s role as a champion of freedom of expression, a gateway to public access to culture and creativity and an enabler of high quality professional original works.

Professor Fraser rejects the need to find a “copyright balance” between copyright owners’ rights and the public interest in access.  Both are guaranteed under Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and both benefit from an effective copyright framework.  Indeed it is the vocation of authors and publishers to provide access to their works.

In the intellectual property market, copyright guarantees the independence of authors and publishers and promotes excellence.  Without copyright they would be dependent on sponsorship and patronage.  With copyright they are free to make their living as professionals.  The distinction between professional and amateur creation is an important one.  To make original works of high quality requires long and continual, professional dedication by authors and publishers. 

Professor Fraser argues that respect for copyright is vital to the health of a modern democracy and that those societies which fail to respect it will fail in the same way as those that did not respect real and personal property failed in the 20th century.  He concludes that copyright is essential to authors and publishers’ independence. Independent and autonomous authors and publishers who express and publish their own ideas in their own works are indispensable to democratic society.
Click here for the full speech