Citizens Now Are Copyright Stakeholders by ProQuest


More Info
									18        InformationToday
February 2010

                                                                                                                                                      The scope of eli-
                Intellectual Property                                                                                                             gible works wasn’t
                                                                                                                                                  the only thing that

     Citizens Now Are Copyright Stakeholders                                                                                                      changed: In response
                                                                                                                                                  to lobbying by tradi-
                                                                                                                                                  tionally vested inter-
     by K. MATTHEW DAMES             |                                                                                                            ests, the number of
                                                                                                                                                  rights increased as

              hroughout its history, copyright                                                                                                    well in the following
              law and policy have been created                                                                                                    manner:                  K. Matthew Dames
              by and have served commercial
     interests. But this should be neither sur-                                                                                                   • A translation right (1870)
     prising nor particularly controversial.
        Copyright began as a privilege for                                                                                                        • An expanded translation right (1909)
     publishers to protect their works from be-
     ing copied without proper authorization.                                                                                                     • A public performance right for
     While copyright laws in the U.S. evolved                                                                                                       dramatic works (1856)
     into a bundle of exclusive rights that cre-
     ators received (theoretically, as an incen-                                                                                                  • A public performance right for
     tive to create content in the first place),                                                                                                    musical works (1897)
     many creators ceded these rights to busi-
     ness entities, sometimes unwittingly (as                                                                                                     • A public display right (1976)
     was the case with untold numbers of
     African-American musicians who signed                                                                                                        • Rights of attribution and
     away their rights in the 19th and 20th        Once the process got entrenched, it be-       who promotes improved copyright pro-               integrity (1990)
     centuries, sometimes for little in ex-        came very difficult to reform it, even if     tection for U.S. creative works abroad)
     change) but sometimes knowingly (in           members of Congress had had the stom-         was not present at Biden’s summit. How-          • A public performance right for
     those instances where a company was           ach to try.”                                  ever, as Litman pointed out in her Car-            digital audio transmissions of
     thought to have a better chance at suc-           Litman continued by saying that with      dozo article, the register’s presence may          sound recordings (1995)
     cessfully making money from a copy-           each passing decade, another lobbying in-     not have made any difference, at least
     righted work).                                terest group—movie studios, then record       not insofar as the public receiving repre-          Finally, the term of copyright was ex-
        This arrangement of having corporate       companies, then broadcasters, and librar-     sentation at the Biden meeting: “Once            tended, beginning at 14 years (with one
     copyright portfolio owners being the sole     ies—became a stakeholder interested in        upon a time, the Copyright Office saw            14-year renewal period) to its current
     nongovernmental interest in copyright         carving out specialized provisions and        [representing the public] as an integral         duration of the life of the author, plus
     law and policy worked reasonably well         exceptions specifically for their special-    part of its mission. Over the past fifty         70 years.
     for quite some time. And if the arrange-      ized interests. Virtually none of these       years, though, the Copyright Office has
     ment didn’t work well, it worked well         interest groups has traditionally repre-      gradually come to see its most important
     enough. Arguably, copyright owners owned      sented the public’s interest in copyright     constituents as the entities who own                         According to the
     a stake in the process as a recipient, li-    matters, and those that purport to repre-     copyrights, and has seemed increasingly
     censor, and protector of exclusive rights     sent the public—Public Interest Research      willing to subordinate the interests of                    Electronic Frontier
     for whatever “limited Times” that Con-        Group, Electronic Frontier Foundation,        both authors and the public to the inter-                   Foundation, RIAA
     gress deemed appropriate. Similarly, leg-     the American Civil Liberties Union—have       ests of the publishers, record labels, soft-
     islators owned a stake in the process as      been unsuccessful at gaining entry to the     ware and motion picture companies who                      member companies
     the party responsible for creating and        stakeholder club.                             dominate its client base.”                                    have sued more
     vesting whatever rights copyright own-            Never was the incestuous nature of
     ers ultimately received.                      the copyright stakeholder constituency                                                                         than 28,000
                                                                                                 How the Public
        However, I argue that the average cit-     more apparent than in December, when                                                                       citizens to date.
     izen now is as much a copyright stake-        Joe Biden, the U.S. vice president, con-      Became Involved
     holder as the traditionally vested inter-     vened a Roundtable Discussion on En-              Arguably, the public’s stake in copy-
     ests, and citizens can take measures to       forcing Laws Against Piracy of Intellectual   right came as a result of the law’s ex-             These factors have combined
     ensure that the copyright system begins       Property at the White House. In addition      pansion, which was itself the result of          to make copyright the most ubiquitous
     to consider their interests.                  to the vice president, those attending the    the traditionally vested interests seeking       form of intellectual property and the form
                                                   discussion included the U.S. attorney         more protection for their works. The na-         most likely to involve the public on a daily
                                                   general, the nation’s secretary of home-      tion’s first Copyright Act (1790) provided       basis. “At the turn of the century, U.S.
     The Old Boys’ Club                            land security, the directors of the FBI and   protection to books, maps, and naviga-           copyright law was technical, inconsistent,
         In several of her writings, law profes-   the Secret Service; top executives from       tional charts; its sole rights were the abil-    and difficult to understand, but it didn’t
     sor Jessica Litman has detailed the his-      corporate copyright owners such as NBC        ity to print, reprint, publish, and sell those   apply to very many people or very many
To top