Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A2A: The Culture War Continues

Dan Hunter is on a roll. Just a month after posting his Culture Wars on SSRN, he has extended the theme of decentralized cultural production & copyright. Instead of analyzing Marxist-Lessigism, as he called it, he takes a shot at it himself. Together with F. Gregory Lastowka he has put up Amateur-to-Amateur, again at SSRN.

Here is the abstract:
Copyright, it is commonly said, matters in society because it encourages the production of socially beneficial, culturally significant expressive content. However our focus on copyright's recent history blinds us to the social information practices which have always existed. In this article, we examine these social information practices, and query copyright's role within them. We posit a functional model of what is necessary for creative content to move from creator to user. These are the functions dealing with creation, selection, production, dissemination, promotion, sale, and use of expressive content. We demonstrate how centralized commercial control of information content has been the driving force behind copyright's expansion. However, all of the functions that copyright industries used to control are undergoing revolutionary decentralization and disintermediation. Different aspects of information technology, notably the digitization of information, widespread computer ownership, the rise of the Internet, and the development of social software, threaten the viability and desirability of centralized control over every one of the content functions. These functions are increasingly being performed by individuals and disorganized, distributed groups. This raises an issue for copyright as the main regulatory force in information practices, because copyright assumes a central control structure that no longer applies to creative content. We examine the normative implications of this shift for our information policy in this new post-copyright era. Most notably we conclude that copyright law needs to be adjusted in order to recognize the opportunity and desirability of decentralized content, and the expanded marketplace of ideas it promises.
And from the paper:
The amateur-to-amateur movement in content information practices calls into question copyright's claim to a central role in structuring the information environment. Due to the increasing ease of content creation, selection, and distribution through distributed networks, we are seeing a separate amateur sphere of content production emerging and providing the public benefits that were previously provided by copyright-controlling enterprises. Yet copyright law has essentially disregarded the contributions of amateurs and concentrated instead on creating incentives for the profit-driven information production practices of the traditional entertainment industries.
More accessible than Yochai Benkler, richer in details and foundation than Lessig's latest book, but resonating much of their ideas and themes. A must-read, though, and another fine gallon of fuel on the fire that warms the pinko commie bastard criers.


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