Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interesting article on digitalization & 'copyright maximalism' in BNA's E-Commerce & Tech Law Blog

Came across this interesting article in BNA's "E-Commerce & Tech Law" blog:

Back to the Future at Tenenbaum Copyright Trial

A few hours ago I stopped by attorney Ray Beckerman's blog and found there the prepared statement of musician John Perry Barlow. The statement offers a glimpse of testimony he is prepared to offer in the case of Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, a theatrical production whose last act promises to teach us something about the constitutionality of tough statutory damages for copyright infringement.

Barlow is famous as lyricist for the Grateful Dead, but notable for cyberlaw followers as the author of The Economy of Ideas: Selling Wine Without Bottles on the Global Net, his argument against the application of copyright law to the Internet, and as co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Economy of Ideas was written in 1992-93. If you have never read it or, like me, you haven't read it for over a decade, you really owe it to yourself to read this essay. Set aside the fact that Barlow is just hammering away at the recording industry. Read the essay for what he is saying about the promise of digital technologies. Ideas about the attention economy, the importance of relationships and the unimportance of digital objects and copying, ideas about monetizing information through personalization, point of view, and authority, Barlow had it all down in 1992. So much of what has been written about blogs and social media, Web 2.0, etc., draws from the ideas in this essay. I never see Barlow credited with these ideas, though.

I also went back and read another period piece, Prof. Pamela Samuelson's 1993 The Copyright Grab, her warning to the general public that the federal government and large copyright owners -- in order to pave the way for digital distribution of their property -- was on the verge of turning over to the copyright owners a large measure of the public's right to share and use copyrighted content. Prof. Samuelson called the plan a "maximalist agenda" for copyright owners.
Complete article

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