Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Jessica Litman on Sharing & Stealing

I've already seen this essay by Jessica Litman some time ago in hard-copy, but now it's online for your electronic reading pleasure (or print thereof). Historical notes on information dissemination, specifically of music, and a variant proposal for blanket collective licensing, which Litman acknowledges will not make it under current copyright law: Sharing and Stealing (SSRN)

Here's the abstract:
The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation and mass dissemination of a wide variety of works. Until recently, most means of mass dissemination required a significant capital investment. The lion's share of the economic proceeds of copyrights were therefore channeled to publishers and distributors, and the law was designed to facilitate that. Digital distribution invites us to reconsider all of the assumptions underlying that model. We are still in the early history of the networked digital environment, but already we've seen experiments with both direct and consumer-to-consumer distribution of works of authorship. One remarkable example of the difference consumer-to-consumer dissemination can make is seen in the astonishing information space that has grown up on the world wide web. The Internet has transformed information and the way we interact with it by creating an easily accessible, dynamic, shared information space. Its success derives from the fact that information sharing on the Web is almost frictionless; individuals are free to post information they learned from others without having to secure their permissions. This paper proposes that we look for some of the answers to the vexing problem of unauthorized exchange of music files on the Internet in the wisdom intellectual property law has accumulated about the protection and distribution of factual information. In particular, it analyzes the digital information resource that has developed on the Internet, and suggests that what we should be trying to achieve is an online musical smorgasbord of comparable breadth and variety. It proposes that we adopt a legal architecture that encourages but does not compel copyright owners to make their works available for widespread sharing over digital networks, and that we incorporate into that architecture a payment mechanism, based on a blanket or collective license, designed to compensate creators and to bypass unnecessary intermediaries.


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