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Preliminary Thoughts on Copyright Reform

Mike Linksvayer, August 1st, 2007

Copyright scholar has published a very readable call to begin thinking about comprehensive copyright reform in the form of a model law. Those familiar with Creative Commons will recognize that rationale for and obstacles to reform at the government level demonstrate the critical role played by Creative Commons.

Samuelson on part of the rationale for reform:

The ’76 Act was also drafted in an era when it mainly regulated the copyright industries and left alone the acts of ordinary people and non-copyright industries who might interact with copyrighted works. The copyright industries had negotiated many of the fine details of the statute and knew what they meant, even if no one else did. Advances in digital technologies have, among other things, democratized the creation and dissemination of new works of authorship and brought ordinary persons into the copyright realm not only as creators but also as users of others’ works. One reason why a simpler more copyright law is needed is to provide a comprehensible normative framework for all of us who create, use, and disseminate works of authorship.

Again, on prospects for reform:

As enthusiastic as I am about copyright reform, I am not so naïve as to think that there is any realistic chance that a copyright reform effort will be undertaken in the next decade by the Copyright Office, the U.S. Congress, or any other organized group. There are many reasons why a copyright reform project is infeasible at the present time.

While few reading this blog would argue against the need for eventual reform at the government level (and few would not argue about what reform should look like…), it is clear that one does not need to wait decades for copyright more suited to this age of digital networks. By choosing a CC license for your works and using works so released by others you get reasonable copyright, now, and just possibly open more eyes to what copyright ought to look like in the future.

Samuelson does cite Creative Commons:

The Copyright Office has proposed legislation to limit remedies for reuse of works whose copyright owner cannot be located after a reasonably diligent effort. This “orphan works” legislation is a step in the right direction, but the problems of too many copyrights and not enough notice of copyright claims and ownership interests run far deeper than that. With the rise of amateur creators and the availability of digital networked environments as media for dissemination, the volume of works to which copyright law applies and the universe of authors of whom users must keep track have exploded. Creative Commons has done a useful service in providing a lightweight mechanism for allowing sharing and reuses of amateur creations, but copyright formalities may have a useful role in reshaping copyright norms and practices in the more complex world that has evolved in recent years.

Thanks, though the “amateur” qualifier is rapidly becoming anachronistic. :-)

The article does focus on U.S. reform, but notes that addressing differences in copyright across jurisdictions will be important and hard, realities strongly recognized by the efforts of many involved in Creative Commons projects worldwide.

Via The Patry Copyright Blog.

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