The hard question of our class on copyright and music on the Web: whereto from here on the digital media problem? We find ourselves, as a global society or collection of societies, in a crisis, brought on by a familiar and popular medium — music — transformed by a new and disruptive medium — the Internet with fat pipes and compressed files.
* One source of the problem: whenever you do virtually anything on the Net, you’re making a copy. The copyright law in the United States, as memorialized importantly in the US Constitution at the end of the eighteenth century, didn’t contemplate such ease of making copies.
* Another source of the problem: polar positions staked out by those who see a vision of the Net as free and open and those who would clamp it down completely in order to control content to the greatest extent possible. The latest salvo in this battle: 261 lawsuits filed by the RIAA against individual file-sharers.
* A third source of the problem: a shortage of vision on the part of policy-makers who are paid by the taxpayers to help us to emerge from crises of this sort, and the relative unpopularity of coordinated solutions among a series of nations. This problem has international scope to it, even if much of the story continues to break here in the United States.
We considered the Sony, Napster and Grokster cases in brief, and explored Prof. Fisher’s “Chapter 6” idea of an Alternative Compensation System, which met with a fair number of tough questions, implying to me a certain skepticism among class members about its viability.
We broke early to listen to Prof. Fisher’s tour-de-force on the state of the Intellectual Property field as he accepted the Hale and Dorr Professorship of Intellectual Property Law.