“Promoting Innovation and Economic Growth: The Special Problem of Digital Intellectual Property,” a new CED policy statement is now available. The statement includes an overview of copyright law and business innovation, as well as recommendations for overcoming the challenges inherent in digital media.
The NY Times reports on the report:
- The entertainment industry’s pursuit of tough new laws to protect copyrighted materials from online piracy is bad for business and for the economy, according to a report being released today by the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington policy group that has its roots in the business world.
Record companies and movie and television studios have fought copyright infringement on many fronts, hopin g to find ways to prevent their products from being distributed free on the Internet. But critics warn that many of the new restrictions that the entertainment industry proposes – like enforcing technological requirements for digital television programming that would prevent it from being transmitted online – would upset the balance between the rights of the content creators and the rights of the public.
“We are sympathetic to the problems confronting the content distribution industry,” said the report, “Promoting Innovation and Economic Growth: The Special Problem of Digital Intellectual Property.” “But these problems – perfect copies of high-value digital works being transmitted instantly around the world at almost no cost – require clear, concentrated thinking, rather than quick legislative or regulatory action.”
Until recently, those who opposed strong copyright protections have been characterized by the entertainment industry as a leftist fringe with no respect for the value of intellectual property.
“The ideas of copy-left, or of a more liberal regime of copyright, are receiving wider and wider support,” said Debora L. Spar, a professor at Harvard Business School. “It’s no longer a wacky idea cloistered in the ivory tower; it’s become a more mainstream idea that we need a different kind of copyright regime to support the wide range of activities in cyberspace.”
Susan Crawford, a professor at the Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University and an author of the report said that a growing number of business leaders are worried that the trend toward “equating intellectual property with physical property” might be hampering innovation.
“Bits are not the same as atoms,” she argued, contending that the distinction is being blurred by Hollywood. “We need to reframe the legal discussion to treat the differences of bits and atoms in a more thoughtful way.”
The chief author of the report, Elliot Maxwell, a former adviser to the secretary of commerce on the digital economy during the Clinton administration, said that middle ground was hard to find in the many conflicts over intellectual property. The report, he said, was an attempt “to find a way through this thicket.”
….One of the most prominent critics of attempts to increase control over copyrighted material applauded the new report. “I think it’s exciting,” said the critic, Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society. “The points they are making are obviously right,” he said, “but the only way people will get it is if more credible, mainstream organizations begin to utter it.”
….The report also endorsed the private use of so-called digital rights management systems to place some restrictions on copying, so long as they are not required by government and do not impose too great a burden on consumers. The group also recommended finding economic tools that could encourage copyright holders to allow their works to enter the public domain somewhat earlier than the law allows.
The group called for a two-year moratorium on changes to copyright laws and regulations to allow for more public debate. “Our first concern should be to ‘do no harm,’ ” the report said.
I am very pleased that a busniess-oriented policy group is deeply suspicious of govermental mandates to protect intellectual property, that it sees the dangers of hasty and overreaching copyright law, and that it is looking at the economy as whole, not just from the position of rights holders. It would appear that the days of a philosophy of “perpetual copyright” being shoved through a disinterested legislature and uncomprehending public have come to an end.