Myriad: Intellectual Property Without Borders?

Ms. Isabelle Fuller – 25/03/2024
Novella City, Xeles, Novella Islands
Novellan National News Service

An inside look at the ‘Novellan state-sponsored piracy platform’

Software hosting and distribution platform? Film and television database-meets-encyclopaedia? A creative’s forum for collaboration and critique? Myriad, the National Software Corporation’s ‘marketplace of ideas’ – and, more recently, the ‘open repository of ideas’ – has surged into the consciousness of the world at large. As enigmatic as it is to describe succinctly, invariably, a phrase of disdain is attached to it in overseas reporting: “Myriad, the Novellan state-sponsored piracy platform”. Why has a service more than a decade old sprung to the pages of foreign media, and why now?

Last Tuesday, over 200 films from various Opthelian media companies were uploaded to the site, free for anyone to download. Most notable of this batch, Pine Gap: Triumph Amidst Adversity – the deeply revisionist Great War documentary produced by Cultural Harmony Opthelia, a state-funded propaganda production house – was downloaded almost 300,000 times, prompting harsh backlash from Eddington. “How dare our Great War heroes be disrespected like this?”, chides The Opthelian, while The Eddington Times opines that, “as is tradition, Novellans steal what is not theirs, and unilaterally declare the right to hand it out freely”.

Some of the releases were in higher quality than was even released in Opthelian cinemas, prompting allegations that all of the source files were obtained in a data breach. However, under Novellan copyright law – or rather, the intentionally limited corpus of intellectual property law that exists in lieu of an actual system of copyright – absolutely none of what was uploaded was illegal, in spite of many of the films still being aired in Opthelia, and abroad.

Leader of the Union of the Centre-Right, Dr. Constance Sarsgaard, has used the controversy as the latest rallying element in her election campaign, after losing a substantial number of supporters to various separatist parties. Labelling the situation as ‘appalling’, she continued, “intellectual property rights in the Novella Islands have been in a sorry state for years, and this debacle demonstrates just how dead copyright has been since the release of Myriad in 2009.”

“We need to clean up our act, reform the entire system, lest we continue to upset the international entertainment community broadly, and our economic partners in particular.”

Dr. Constance Sarsgaard has fought against Myriad since 2010 — before she entered politics.

The death of copyright… 2009, or 1879?

The status of a limitless and enduring right to property until death – and beyond, in the case of many systems of intellectual property – has long been a point of contention within the Novella Islands. Indeed, the 1877 Revolution was sparked, in part, by disagreement over the rights of a theatre group to perform a rendition of The Watchers. So important was this fact that, at the first Revolutionary Congress of 1879, a resolution was passed bringing into the ownership of the people ‘any and all works made, to date’. Such sweeping reform continued throughout the life of the Communist Union, killing independent art, and transforming it into a state-run profession.

The compromise system established in the economic liberalisations of the 1970s was the Initial Exclusivity Period, a core component of the Creative Freedoms Act 1973. Explicitly not a form of enduring copyright, and bestowing no protections against derivatives or other genuinely transformative use, the initial six months after a work was released was reserved for the creator to profit off of their work in the form it was originally published. After this period expired, the work was to enter into the public domain fully, as before.

Given a majority of consumption of any given media occurs within the first six weeks after publication, rising to two-thirds by the end of six months, this was seen as a more than acceptable settlement for all parties. Once again, becoming an artist or author – and in particular, an independent creative – was an economically viable way to make a living. Indeed, as the former NSC Chairwoman Dr. Rachel Theodore summarised upon questioning at a 2003 review of the act, “Six months remains the perfect medium. If someone wants to grab an older version of our software, with its fewer features and greater number of bugs, they can be our guest; they were never our target market, in the first instance. Those who need it, need it now, and they’ll pay a premium for that.”

However, complications arise when a work’s rights holder is a foreign national or corporation, and compound further when the work is not released domestically. Creators have three months following a work’s initial release abroad, to announce and implement plans for a domestic release, upon which the full six-month Initial Exclusivity Period will begin. Further, notionally, foreign works must be approved by the Novellan National Media Directorate before being released within the Novella Islands; in practice, this process is only relevant for films the Directorate wishes to purchase and distribute throughout the state-owned network of cinemas, and any film distributor can make screening deals with independent cinema owners as they see fit. Pine Gap: Triumph Amidst Adversity was neither picked up by the NNMD, nor by any private cinema, and as such it entered into the public domain three months after its release in Opthelia.

Nevertheless, the NSC has offered compensation to Cultural Harmony Opthelia for the 272,912 downloads of the film made in the five days between the date it was uploaded on Myriad, and the date the work’s Initial Exclusivity Period would have expired (were it released domestically, at the same time as in Opthelia). Valued at the average price of a cinema ticket, the total compensation totals approximately ₦350,000,000. The Opthelian corporation has not responded to a request for comment on the matter.

The Revolutionary Congress’ inaugural session, held in the Sydney Exhibition Hall, Aqis, 13 July 1879.

A ‘truly egalitarian world for creatives’

If Myriad is nothing but a headache for rights holders, why is it so popular, and why is it owned and operated by the taxpayer-funded National Software Corporation? As it turns out, the lion’s share of the protestation isn’t coming from the creatives, themselves.

“You won’t hear any complaints from Novellans, of course… or even individuals in other countries who know about Myriad, for that matter. All the fuss is coming from big entertainment corporations; those who stand to lose a lot of money”, explains Ms. Victoria Ward, an independent video game developer. Having released two games on Myriad to critical and commercial success, she is no stranger to the intricacies of the system.

“At the end of the day, it’s fair, equitable, and just. For example, I pay absolutely nothing for hosting or advertising my games, and I get every novelle spent on my works in the first six months. After that, few people are buying it anyway, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me if a handful of latecomers get it for free.” Musing for a moment, she continues. “Besides which, some of them are polite enough to send a donation and a kind word in after they finish the game, anyway. At that point, the note of appreciation actually matters to me more, that something I made is still being enjoyed.”

Indeed, perhaps one of the most notable features of Myriad is the encyclopaedia-cum-database element, where fan-made derivatives are catalogued and linked back to the original work. This serves both to ensure the original creator is recognised for their efforts, and to allow the discovery and promotion of new work. It is a common courtesy and unwritten rule within the community, should one’s derivative become popular, to make a donation back to the initial work’s creator; this is facilitated directly through the service’s marketplace. In total, this system greatly prolongs the lifecycle of a work’s audience and enjoyment, reducing the impact of fads and trends, and promoting a deeper and more invested appreciation of each and every creative work.

“Yes, it’s definitely a cliché saying, but it’s also absolutely true. Myriad is the ‘truly egalitarian world for creatives’, and I wouldn’t trade if for any of the alternatives out there.”

Ms. Victoria Ward is the developer of TimeQuest and Red=Blue, releasing both games on Myriad.

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