The Impact of the Internet and Copyright

Posted in Uncategorized by coda on October 13, 2009

It seems that we are still working through the effects of Web 2.0 on the role of copyright law. I have been reading this Q&A, titled:
Balancing Copyright Protection and Intellectual Property Rights in the Digital Age.
The central question, from a business perspective is – how will content survive in a digital world where investment, innovation and creativity are pitted against norms of sharing and values like access? This was one of the issues considered in a seminar on the impact of technology on copyright law. As we continue to debate the issues relating to the context in which copyright law is struggling to maintain its authority, I am reminded of Professor Fisher’s book Promises to Keep. His central thesis in this book is that we have been too ready to protect “old” world businesses from the challenges posed by the technological environment, in particular, peer-to-peer networks. I am not sure how we will negotiate the dilemma but our colleagues in Microsoft have this suggestion:

We think that three simple principles can help the industry make the right choices. The first principle is that new services that expand online access to content should be encouraged. The second principle is that those new services must respect the legitimate interests of copyright holders; put conversely, we must forcefully reject any business model that is based on the systematic infringement of copyrights. The third principle is that, even as we adhere to these first two principles, we must all work together to find consumer friendly and cost-effective solutions to our shared goal of expanding online access to copyrighted and public-domain works.

I don’t want to minimize the challenges we face, nor the flexibility and willingness to experiment that is needed to build a truly sustainable ecosystem of broad online access to the world’s culture. But we cannot succeed in meeting these challenges by cutting legal corners and ignoring the rights of copyright holders. Rather, the technology and content industries should continue to work together to find consumer-friendly solutions that nurture rather than undermine the incentives for creativity that are so vital to sustaining our culture.

There is no doubt that we need a sustainable solution – this is where the debate starts I guess. Until then we are reliant on copyright law to provide a crude instrument for mediating conflicts.


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