April 22, 2010
The Unchanging Foundation of Copyright
Copyright Clearance Center CEO Tracey Armstrong discusses her belief that copyright holders have the right to price and term their works and the ways in which this can be achieved in the digital world in Edward Nawotka's All Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. Nawotka writes "Armstrong maintains that despite the transition from analog to digital culture, the foundation of copyright hasn’t changed. It has only created a greater and more urgent need for expeditious means of licensing the material -– or clearing copyright."
Do you agree? Or is Ken Schneyer's comment to the Publishing Perspectives article more in tune with the changes taking place in the publishing industry?
Copyright is an artifact of the printing press. It was designed to solve a specific set of problems. It solved those problems tolerably well.
Just as a technological development made copyright necessary, technological developments are making it counterproductive. The recent, “stronger” forms of copyright, which have taken such absurd turns as outlawing technology itself, creating harsher sentences for bringing video cameras into movie theaters than for assault and battery, and creating a “limited time” of copyright ownership that cannot provide reasonable incentives to any mortal human, are evidence of how badly stressed the paradigm has become.
A new model is needed, one that will protect the interests of creators without giving a small minority of corporations a virtual stranglehold on culture or sacrificing the interests of nearly everyone else. I do not claim to know what that model is, although I have made some suggestions in the area.
I applaud the drive to develop creative ways of organizing relationships between adapters and original creators. It is certainly a step in the right direction.
But saying that “the foundation of copyright has not changed” is absurd.
"Copyright Law is Out of Balance." Snips from Register of Copyrights Maybeth Peters from BNA's Electronic Commerce & Law Report's "On Copyright's 300th Anniversary, Scholars Question Effectiveness of Current Formulation:"
Technological, social, and international evolutions are combining in ways that compel policy makers to act, Peters said at a conference on the 300th anniversary of modern copyright law sponsored by University of California at Berkeley, Santa Clara University's High Tech Law Institute, and the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.
Copyright is about incentivizing, creating, and making works available, said Peters, who is retiring at the end of the year. “Copyright should be seen as part of the solution, not as creating the problem,’’ she said. “But I do admit that when you have a statute that is crafted around photocopying and you are now in the digital age, it doesn't work very well.’’
Copyright law “is out of balance, and I think it's perceived by many as out of balance, and we have lost the respect of the public in many ways,’’ Peters said. Copyright law has to be updated “so that it makes sense for the copyright owners but also for the consuming public.’’
See also Lawrence Lessig's EDUCAUSE Review article, Getting Our Values around Copyright Right:
The existing system of copyright cannot work in the digital age. ... There is a growing copyright abolitionist movement—people who believe that copyright was a good idea for a time long gone and that we need to eliminate it and move on in a world where there is no copyright. I am against abolitionism. I believe copyright is an essential part of the cultural industries and will be essential in the digital age—even though I also believe it needs to be radically changed in all sorts of important ways and doesn't apply the same in science and in education. Copyright is essential to a diverse and rich (in all senses of that word) culture.
While pondering this issue, take a moment to consider the economic effects of piracy of digital content in the context of the GAO's recent report, Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods reviewed in Mark Giangrande's LLB post, GAO Report Says Economic Effects Piracy of Goods and Files Can't Be Measured. [JH]