ASIS&T 2006 START Conference Manager    

Authorship, Incentives for Creation, and Copyright in the Digital 21st Century

James J. Campbell

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


Abstract

Copyright as it exists in the United States is under enormous stress in the digital age. The cause of this stress is often described in technological terms: digital technology makes possible perfect copies at essentially no cost. Yet there are deeper systemic policy and legal factors that are stressing the U.S. copyright system in the 21st Century. These factors existed before the digital age, although the advent of digital technology has brought them into sharper focus. Specifically, there is an ever-increasing—and increasingly obvious—disconnect between the constitutionally based justification for copyright, and copyright’s lived out implementation. Simply put, we now have a system in which the policy rationale for copyright law has diverged in a significant way from its practice and application. That is particularly true regarding two key justifications for the expansions of copyright protection that have occurred since 1790: the concept of the author, and the necessity of providing a high level of control and financial incentives to authors to encourage the production of socially valuable works, a justification increasingly cited in a world in which perfect digital copies are possible at costs approaching zero. This paper examines both of these justifications for expanded copyright protection and finds them unproven and, in fact, significantly lacking force under both philosophical and empirical analysis. We suggest that the U.S. abandon those justifications for copyright in today’s digital world. In their place, we offer eight principles upon which a more integrated and relevant copyright system could be based, one in which policy, law, and practice could be brought into coherence so that the today’s stresses on copyright would be minimized, and the Constitutional charge to promote “the Progress of Science and useful Arts” would be maximized for society as a whole.


  
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