Copyright has to be radically changed to reflect the realities of the brave new digital world. You may not like it, but the only way to compensate creators, to give the average creator the incentive to continue to create, is some form of copyright tax, as I have mentioned many times now. Otherwise, our civil liberties will continue to be eroded by a blindered, monomaniacal entertainment industry and its toadies in government and enablers in consumer electronics.
I am weary and bored with kneejerk reations in the negative: the status quo is utterly unacceptable, anarchy is unacceptable, constriction of my civil liberties is unacceptable. Either come up with something better or get the hell out of the way.
Harvard's Jonathan Zittrain lays it all out in "The Copyright Cage":
- Bars can't have TVs bigger than 55 inches. Teddy bears can't include tape decks. Girl Scouts who sing "Puff, the Magic Dragon" owe royalties. Copyright law needs to change.
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO I WAS TALKING WITH A LAW SCHOOL COLLEAGUE about cyberlaw and the people who study it. "I've always wondered," he said, "why all the cyberprofs hate copyright."
I don't actually hate copyright, and yet I knew just what he meant. Almost all of us who study and write about the law of cyberspace agree that copyright law is a big mess. As far as I can tell, federal courts experts don't reject our system of federal courts, and criminal law experts split every which way on the overall virtue of the criminal justice system. So what's with our uniform discontent about copyright?
I think an answer can be gleaned from tax scholars. Without decrying the concept of taxation, every tax professor I've met regards the U.S. tax code with a kind of benign contempt, explaining it more often as a product of diverse interests shaped from the bottom up than as an elegant set of rules crafted by legal artisans to align with high-level principles.
Copyright is like that, too. While I hate its Platonic form no more than the typical tax maven hates Tax, I find myself struggling to maintain the benign part of my contempt for its ever-expanding 21st-century American incarnation. A gerrymandered tax code primarily costs the public money - measured by overall inefficiency or extra taxes unfairly levied on those without political capital. But copyright's cost is measured by the more important if inchoate currency of thoughts and ideas.