A very balanced and sensible look in starkly capitalist Forbes at the current state of copyright in the digital era: EVERYONE is going to have to compromise – what a shock:
- File sharing has gotten a black eye from illegal downloads of copyrighted music and movies, but the technology behind it is important. A legal network of shared thinking will hasten drug research, software development and the flow of information. But U.S. copyright laws, designed decades before the Web was ever conceived, have tied file sharing–and many other Internet technologies–in knots.
The traditional holders of copyrighted material have dug in for a long fight against any loosening of the laws. In 1998, after intense lobbying from The Walt Disney Co. and other companies, the U.S. Congress passed a law making corporate copyrights good for 95 years and those owned by individuals good for 70 years past the creator’s death. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court extended that law for another 20 years. But if the old-liners continue to get their way, the public domain in the U.S. will virtually disappear. And early-stage Internet innovations from digital music stores to virtual actors will forever be stuck behind legal firewalls.
….Can copyrights be protected without stifling innovation? Ultimately, the protection of content and jobs hinges on collaboration between producers and distributors.
Among the ideas being floated by lobbying groups like P2P United: a royalty pool created from small charges on Internet service, blank CDs and CD burner equipment. These so-called compulsory licenses would mean consumers broadly share the cost for all copyrighted music that passes through the ISP.
But such licenses would require the approval of the U.S. Congress, says William Fisher, a Harvard Law professor and director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The idea would also get pushback from ISPs.
….There may not be any consensus on how to control distribution and licensing of content, but most agree that it’s a train that can’t be stopped.
History shows that conventional media reflexively shuns novel technology. In 1908, a music publisher sued a player piano company. The Supreme Court ruled that making piano rolls was not close enough to publishing music to be prohibited. In 1984, Universal City Studios and Walt Disney Productions took the VCR to court. There, the judges decided that taping TV programs at home was fair use, to the glee of VCR and Betamax makers and owners.
….Somewhere in the middle of cyberspace, the kids and the grown-ups have to lay down some ground rules. Even the U.S. Constitution was a compromise.