Copyright War Summit Report: Law vs. Technology: Embracing Not Suing New Technologies

15 June 2009

Today Ip’s What’s Up brings you our report on the last of the four BrightTalk presentations in the Copyright War Summit we attended: Law vs. Technology: Embracing Not Suing New TechnologiesE. Michael Harrington explained his four work mantra and reviewed the good, the bad and the neutral of copyright and technology.

Harrington’s Mantra

  • Everything – access to all audio/visual media
  • Everywhere – access in your home, on any mode of transportation, anywhere you might go
  • Anytime access any and all the time
  • Anyway – including using media to create derivative works and using whatever device you please to access and change media

The realization of Harrington’s mantra is currently blocked by both law and technology.  Copyright law prevents ‘everything’ and ‘anyway.’  Technology, with its proprietary protections, can prevent ‘anyway’ as well.  ‘Anytime’ and ‘everywhere’ are pretty well covered now, being allowed (to some extent) by both technology and the law.  Harrington’s good/bad/neutral list helps explain how technology and the law both hinder and help in the achievement of Harrington’s Mantra.

Copyright and Tech – The Good, the Bad and the Neutral

The Good
  • The Sony Betamax case from 1984, introducing “substantial noninfringing use” and “time shifting” as key copyright terms (also mentioned by Howard Knopff during his presentation)
  • Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA), allowing consumers access to blank digital media (and imposing a levy on specific blank digital media, paid to the recording industry)
  • RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia case from 1999, allowing consumers access to mp3 players
  • introduction of the iTunes music store in 2003, allowing consumers a legal and easy way to download music
  • Amazon introducing DRM-free mp3s in 2008
The Bad
  • Telecommunications Act of 1996, deregulated the broadcast industry so that it was ok for a single company to own many, many stations (for plenty of commentary on why this is bad and where it’s led, see Inside Music Media)
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act [pdf] in 1998, made circumventing technologies put in place by media owners a crime in itself, regardless of legality of use of the media
  • UMG v. case in 2000, was the first of the ‘store your own music in the cloud’ music lockers; Universal’s lawsuit shut down the service
  • A&M v. Napster case in 2001, the infamous case that changed the face of Napster.  Harrington pointed out that there were “so many reasons why [turning Napster into something the industry could use] should have worked”
  • Closing of Tower Records in 2006, the beginning of the end of brick and mortar record stores
The Neutral
  • Marketplace
  • New technology
  • Litigation
  • Legislation

For more details on Harrington’s mantra or his list of good, bad and neutral aspects of technology and the law, or to explore some reasons why people break the law, check out Harrington’s full presentation.  Even if you’re not that interested in the topics, you will be entertained.


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