A Week of Reflection on LMDS - Is the US the Only Country in the World?

01 April 2009

The Leadership Music Digital Summit ended last week Wednesday, but one particular thing from the Summit have continued to weight on this Ipper's mind.  Throughout the entire two days, there were no discussions involving the international aspects of copyright.

Big deal, you might say.  The Summit was about the American music industry, so why should there be any international talk?  Two main reasons: first, many of the panelist spoke about how their various companies are attempting to take advantage of worldwide markets.  Markets around the world means copyright laws around the world. 

Second, and more importantly, several discussions at the Summit discussed changes to the United States Copyright Act.  This is not unusual for these types of gatherings.  The same types of suggestions are made at legal training seminars, in articles, on blogs, and in classrooms.  But one fact always seems to be ignored: the US has international obligations.

The United States cannot just willy-nilly change its copyright law without first understanding the potential implications beyond its own borders.  There are diplomatic concerns: 'if we change this, how will it affect foreign artists? What will countries do and say on behalf of protecting their artists?'  There are trade concerns, 'if we change this, and it violates TRIPs, how much will it cost us?'  (And, there are probably a number of other concerns, which this Ipper would need a great deal more experience in international politics to understand.)

This does not mean the US cannot do anything that violates its international copyright obligations (indeed, the US often does), it just means that those who present ideas about changing the United States copyright law should consider the international side of things: bring the international aspects into the discussions. 

As people who have made suggestions improve and develop their ideas more fully, others can begin to suggest changes that do not interfere with international obligations.  Or, if the changes they want cannot be done without making international waves, maybe they can even begin to suggest changes to the international framework.  This Ipper's plea is simple: don't forget the rest of the world.


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