I. Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
The big topic, of course, is what will happen to peer-to-peer file sharing. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Grokster case, which was expected. We will know what the Court thinks soon enough. But in the meantime…First there was Napster. Then Aimster, Grokster, KaZaA, etc. What does this tell us about the fate of file sharing? It will continue, no matter what the outcome of the Grokster case. Smart people will always find ways to circumvent the law.
The efforts of the MPAA and the RIAA to take the uploaders/downloaders to court will have a negligible impact on the amount of file sharing. Unless the MPAA and the RIAA want to take millions of people to court for file sharing, any law aimed at preventing file sharing will also fail. So what would be a possible solution for the MPAA and RIAA?
The solution is not a legal solution, but a technical solution. Advances in technology occur at a much faster rate than any changes in law. For example, a copyrighted work could contain some kind of program that would cause it to completely degrade upon transfer over the internet. Of course, the people that want to transfer the files will find a way around this, but it is better than clogging up the courts with a bunch of cases. If people want to protect their works from being illegally downloaded, then let them do it themselves.
Personally, I do not think there is anything wrong with file sharing. It helps promote “Progress of Science….” As a matter of fact, I was at a Tower Records store the other day and saw a Wilco CD at the listening station. Wilco is the band mentioned in the Grokster case that has benefited from file sharing. Now that they have hit it big, the sale of their CDs will lead to increased revenue. This in turn will lead to more Wilco musical creations – promoting “Progress of Science and useful Arts…”
II. Copyright Term Is Too Long
The current copyright term of life of the author plus seventy years is too long. I realize that this is done so that the author/creator can enjoy any later acquired appreciation in value of the work. If the work does not appreciate within the lifetime of the author, what is the probability of it appreciating seventy years after the author is dead? Is it really necessary to be so long?
I propose a return to the copyright term of the 1909 Copyright Act, where the terms were 28 years, followed by a 28 year renewal term. Twenty-eight years is sufficient time for a work to realize any value, and if it does not appreciate in the first 28 years, then the author can renew the copyright for another 28 years. Once the terms are up though, the work will go into the public domain where others can use it and promote “Progress of Science and useful Arts” by developing other works.
III. Intellectual Property Will Live On
The concept of intellectual property will continue to grow. This may be a cynical view of humankind, but man is driven by greed. Just look at the justification for the Constitution’s patent and copyright clause. The grant of a monopoly to the inventor or author is done as incentive for that person to create and/or invent more things. While I do not think there is anything wrong with this, it just underscores the fact that mankind is driven by greed.
However, there are still a number of people who create and/or invent for the sake of just creating and inventing. Those people are academics – the ones who pursue their subject/craft in order to better advance that specific science.
There are also just situations where there is a need to generate revenue. Having been a chemist in my past life, sometimes licensing fees associated with patented technology were what kept the research group afloat. The revenue generated could then be reinvested so that more discovery and/or creation could take place. This just goes back to the primary justification for the Constitution’s patent and copyright clause. The limited monopoly is just a necessary evil.