I’ve written often about copyright issues as they affect bloggers. I’ve also written an appreciation of Esther Dyson’s seminal paper in this field, Intellectual Value. Now, the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington, DC think tank with ties to the business world has added its imprimataur to this philosophical approach with its report, Promoting Innovation and Economic Growth: The Special Problem of Digital Intellectual Property.
Today’s New York Times story, Report Raises Questions About Fighting Online Piracy, by John Schwartz notes that critics of government intervention into copyright wars on behalf of the entertainment industry:
warn that many of the new restrictions that the entertainment industry proposes would upset the balance between the rights of the content creators and the rights of the public.
Of course, this issue applies not only to film, TV and music; but also to the blog world. The report appears to bolster my own views of copyright as it applies to blogging. I really like the term “copyleft” (though it seems to apply exclusively to software and not to other forms of digital property) which I’d never heard until I read this below:
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.
This is almost a direct quote from Dyson’s article. I’m glad to hear that her approach is gaining ground as I support it as well. Crawford continues by attacking the entertainment industry’s rather narrow, traditionalist view of copyright:
“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.”
Representing the hidebound view is “Old Man” Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA, who said:
he was strongly critical of the view that his industry was trying to place unfair burdens on consumers. “They say it will stifle innovation – that’s malarkey,” he said. “If all of this digital property is free, who is going to invest 50 to 60 million dollars to make a movie?”
Jack, ever heard of iTunes?? They’re raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, while RIAA is still pursuing a grand legal strategy of suing grandmothers and 12 year olds for copyright infringement via downloading music files. Why doesn’t Jack tear a page from Apple’s playbook and figure out new ways of packaging, marketing and selling its products on the web. That’s the only way they can hope to survive as commerce, copyright and consumers adapt to the brave new world of the web.