Thursday 2 December 2010

The Internet, it’s a Copyright Feature, Not a Bug

Looked at in terms of copyright, the Digital World was perceived as a bug. The ease of copying led to rampant infringement that harmed creators. In contrast, again looked at in terms of copyright, I submit that the Networked World should be embraced as a feature.  ~ Tom Rubin, Chief Counsel for IP Strategy at Microsoft

It seems like a point that ought to be obvious, the internet is a good thing.  But, Mr. Rubin is talking about the internet solely through the eyes of copyright law, and here, it is hard to argue that the internet has been treated as a problem.  The Digital World doesn’t fit neatly into existing copyright law and, for the past two decades the most common approach has been to try to jam it in forcefully, hammering the new round peg into the old square hole.

Mr. Rubin explored this issue as part of the Intellectual Property in the International Arena: WIPO Comes to Stanford conference hosted at Stanford Law School last month.  As part of the panel “Copyright in a Networked World,”  Mr. Rubin discussed two main needs for a working copyright system in the digital world.  First: speed and scalability.  Content users need to be able to find and license works quickly.  Second, and related to the first: working information sources and databases.  Content users need to be able to find out who owns the rights to a work quickly and easily. 

Mr. Rubin’s full recount of his participation on the Copyright in a Networked World panel is available at the Stanford CIS blog.  Full reading of this short and interesting piece is encouraged.

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