Commentary

Who will have copyrights?

A TV exec said this week that copyright infringement and piracy should be among the federal government’s top concerns. While I’m not sure I agree that intellectual property concerns trump wartime ethics, environmental concerns, etc. I will agree that copyright infringement is a very important issue today.

But this is by no means the first time piracy has threatened American commerce and potential creativity. Napster was not the first time we worried about the availability of music; online books were not the first time we worried about libraries and bookstores closing their doors. In fact, the photocopier potentially posed the greatest threat to publishers because the product of this copyright infringement was/is not traceable. Think about it: billions of books in stores, libraries, and offices around the world can be photocopied and distributed to billions of other people and the publishers don’t receive a dime outside of the initial book purchase.

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I know my generation supposedly pirates anything worth having, but I fall into a more conservative camp which believes producers deserve to make money from their work. Creators and distributors in every industry have to make money from what they produce, so just because text/music/photos can be pirated doesn’t mean they should be.

So what do we do? Who literally has the right to copy works? And under what restrictions?

Technology has spurred on the creation of more stringent and exacting copyright laws. Is it possible to predict future changes in American IP laws? If we are serious about making copyright violations punishable, and if we’re serious about rewarding artists/writer/musicians for their creativity, we need to be progressive in our thinking about technological advances. Cleaning up after a juggernaut like Napster is not possible, because the idea of passing around free copies of music is out there and iterations will continue to show up in legal-ish ways. Are there technologies coming out now which will further threaten IP law in the next 10 years?

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