Copyright and the law

A worthwhile and interesting article in the Economist on the Grokster ruling, media industry business model implications and copyright law …

For one, it holds that the supreme court’s decision

struck what looks like the best available balance under current laws between the claims of media firms, which are battling massive infringements of their copyrights, and tech firms, which are keen to keep the doors to innovation wide open […] the court did not go as far as media firms demanded: they wanted virtually any new technology to be vulnerable to legal action if it allowed any copyright infringement at all […] tech and electronics firms are also correct that holding back new technology, merely because it interferes with media firms’ established business models, stifles innovation and is an unjustified restraint of commerce

It goes on to argue that digital technologies and high-speed networks have made (digital) distribution both faster and cheaper, so that content people (artists, writers, musicians, etc.) should break-even faster. Here, an interesting discussion of copyright law is intertwined:

[The Supreme Court] was struggling to apply a copyright law which has grown worse than anachronistic in the digital age. […] the length of copyright protection has increased enormously […] This makes no sense. Copyright was originally intended to encourage publication by granting publishers a temporary monopoly on works so they could earn a return on their investment. But the internet and new digital technologies have made the publication and distribution of works much easier and cheaper. Publishers should therefore need fewer, not more, property rights to protect their investment. Technology has tipped the balance in favour of the public domain.

So what to do? Reduce copyright time … speeding up the demise of already broken business models in favour of more relevant and sustainable ones

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